January Transfer Window Preview

The January transfer window officially opened today and it’s expected to signal big changes in the playing roster before it slams shut 1 month from today. Yesterday over on their official page Brisbane acknowledged that announcements are immanent. Before looking at specific players, there are a couple of things to factor in when talking about the salary cap.

The first thing to acknowledge is that Brisbane should have a sizeable portion mid-season salary cap to work with in January. With the departures of Liam Miller and Matt Smith since the season started, in addition to Ivan Franjic’s departure late in the off-season there should be more than enough room to bring in a few new faces to the squad. (n.b.- Brisbane did sign Sarota after Franjic left which could have taken some of the available cap space)

The second factor to consider is the rules surrounding player limits on squad size, marquee players and visa players. Currently Brisbane have filled both their marquee spots –Broich and McKay-, while four of the five visa spots are taken by Henrique, Broich, Kurtishi and Solórzano. Currently Brisbane have 20 out of a maximum of 23 contracted first team players + the three full time National Youth League players so it’s possible to add to the squad without moving any players out in the opposite direction.

So- with those things in mind, which positions should Brisbane be looking to strengthen? The obvious area to strengthen is in the front third with a lack of goals this season due to Besart Berisha’s departure and the failure of replacements to score goals –Henrique aside. Obviously with the departures of Matt Smith and Liam Miller, there are squad vacancies in both central defence and in the midfield, although id look for a couple of the emerging midfielders like Devante Clut or George Lambadaridis to step in and be given a chance between now and the end of the season.

Brisbane’s left hand side has been reasonably solid this season, however the same cant be said for the right hand side with Bowles and Petratos looking shaky defensively and prone to turnovers going forward in possession. Players returning from injury such as Michael Theo and Thomas Broich will help, however  if Brisbane could address the following positions in the next month they will give themselves the best chance to push for a finals position and succeed in Asia.

– Right Full-back
– Central Defence
– Right Wing
– Striker

Players coming in?
Moving onto specific players, and starting with a player who has been strongly linked in Jerome Polenz. Polenz was a key part of the formation of the Wanderers, and his combination with Youssouf Hersi was one of the more successful ones in the league. He has struggled for games since he left Australia playing just a handful of games in Norway with Sarpsborg 08, but in his time in the A-League he showed his quality. It sounds like this deal could be confirmed sooner rather than later, with the German already in Brisbane training for the past couple of weeks.

Another player who has been linked in the media over the past couple of weeks is Luke DeVere, and he would definitely be a good fit in the backline alongside either Jade North or James Donachie. DeVere, who made 65 appearances for Brisbane from 2008-2011 has struggled for regular game time in the K-League with Gyeongnam thanks to both form and injury. DeVere has also attracted the interest of Sydney FC reportedly who are looking for an injury replacement, however he is also looking for a lucrative contract in Asia so there’s no guarantee he’ll return to Australia. Even if it’s not Luke DeVere, it’s likely that somebody will come in to provide competition at centre back. Currently in addition to North and Donachie, Brisbane’s central defensive options are somewhat limited, with full-backs Daniel Bowles and Shane Stefanutto possibilities, along with youth league defender Lachlan Jackson.

The biggest recruitment failure this season has definitely been the fact that the goals lost with Besart Berisha’s departure to Melbourne Victory. While Jean Carlos Solórzano has looked ok at times this season, neither he or Mensur Kurtishi have stepped up and filled the void. Thijssen has said a number of times in his post-game press conferences that he sees Henrique as the side’s only goal scoring threat currently, so with that in mind a new striker seems inevitable. Figuring out who is a tough ask, as there’s very few Australian strikers out there that fit the bill for what Brisbane would be looking for, and with foreign players it’s near impossible to guess or predict which ones are on the radar. Im confident there will be a new striker in town by the end of the transfer window, who that is however is anyone’s guess.

This one I admit is purely speculation on my part, but after the quotes he gave at the weekend about wanting to return to the A-League on a loan deal post Asian Cup, it seems like it’s a possibility that Ivan Franjic could return. While it’s seems certain that Jerome Polenz will sign and play at right back, Ivan showed his versatility last season by spending some time playing both in the midfield and on the right side of the front three. Whose to say that Brisbane wouldn’t be interested in bring him back to play on the right wing in place of Petratos, or on the right side of a midfield three in the role currently held by Adam Sarota? It goes without saying that should Ivan seriously look into returning to Australia either on loan or permanently, there would be a host of interest in him. There’s also the matter of getting his current club, Torpedo Moscow, to allow him to leave the club having only just joined in August.

Players going out?
Going in the other direction is tougher to predict, as there hasn’t been any indication of players moving on. So far the only definite departure is goalkeeper Matt Acton, whose injury replacement contract has now expired with the expected return of Michael Theo for the next game against Wellington on February 2nd.  It’s not certain that there will be any other departures this month with Liam Miller and Matt Smith having already gone, but I wouldn’t be surprised if one or two did.

Should there be any further departures in January, it would seem that Mensur Kurtishi is the man most likely to go. Throughout his 9 league games to date -5 start, 4 subs-, he’s scored just the one goal away to Perth in round two and has struggled to make an impact in general play. The 28 year old, who signed a 1 year contract with Brisbane has just a couple months left on his deal, so if there isn’t any interest in his services in Europe or elsewhere, it could be possible for Brisbane to work out some kind of buyout of the remainder of his contract. Others who may move on could be full-back Jack Hingert, who may be the odd man out at right back should Polenz sign and with Daniel Bowles on the books as well, in addition to Kofi Danning and George Lambadaridis whose contracts expire at the end of the season and have struggled to make an impact due to lengthy injuries.

January figures to be an interesting month for Brisbane supporters, with some significant changes to the squad likely to occur. Over the next week or so I might take a closer look at a couple of individual players who could be available –time permitting-, but as things are announced, we’ll bring the news here.

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