Dundee United’s season so far has been absolutely all over the place. Laszlo’s United was painful even when we were winning. We never actually played well, we were always just less incompetent than the teams we were playing against, as soon as we came up against an actually decent team, Ross County put five past a confused and lost United side at Tannadice, and Csaba was sacked. Robbie Neilson came in, and we improved for a while, Then a Friday night meeting with Ayr put us directly back to square one, as the 1-1 draws with both Morton and Inverness have shown.
We need players, right now. Our squad as a whole isn’t good enough, even with the quality of the likes of Fyvie, Safranko and Aird dragging us to third, the gaps that Neilson needs to fill is obvious. Our new owner, Mark Ogren, has (as stated in this article stateside) already been made aware that players are needed in January and hopefully he’ll bring in the investment necessary to bring in some quality signings.
However, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t players that will be leaving. Though I have previously bemoaned depth, truly it is the lack of quality depth that is the problem. Therefore, it would of no surprise to me to see players also leave the club, as Neilson and the Boardroom try to make the biggest enough gap in the wage budget to the get possible players.
But what are the positions he needs to fill? and what are the players who may be leaving? Well, I’m not Robbie Neilson, so I don’t know. But I can at least guess.
Since Jackie McNamara, in his infinite stupidity, replaced Keith Watson and Conor Townsend with Ryan McGowan and Paul Dixon, Dundee United have consistently struggled with filling their full-back positions. Laszlo, for what’s it’s worth, does appear to have solved the left back problem with the consistently average Callum Booth, the right-back spot is still a problem. Wardrop, for whatever reason, isn’t rated by Neilson or the rest of the coaching staff, and Watson and Murdoch are not bloody right-backs, regardless of how much Neilson tries to Stockholm Syndrome the fans into thinking they are. A natural Right Back is a must in January, and there’s one man who seems to be the most likely to come in, and who the fans are wanting the most.
Anthony Ralston came in and, after a decent debut against Dunfermline, immediately looked a step above and was our best player alongside Mohsni at the end of the season. His pace, power, and technical ability was welcome then and would be even more welcome now. If we get him in, then we can safely say that Right Back is sorted. His recent good form for the Celtic first team may arguably make it harder for United to get him, but the fact that he isn’t trusted enough to play against Aberdeen means there may still be a chance.
Despite Fyvie and Stanton being two of our best players, they’re also the only two truly good midfielders that we have. Christoph Rabitsch is a confusing watch, he seemingly does everything wrong but we also look weaker without him anytime he’s played and brought off. And Adam Barton is one of the laziest footballers I’ve ever seen. After that, we’re dipping into the reserves and academy which Neilson seems to want to avoid.
More depth would be helpful, yes, but more importantly, what we need is a destroyer in the midfield, someone who can come in, make tackles, break up play, and annoy the opposition fans who think he’s a “thug”. Now, we would’ve had that type of player, but unfortunately, Csaba released both Grant Gillespie and Jordie Briels in the summer. Another bad mark against that idiot. It’s hard to really point out one player and say “go and get him” considering our level, but if we can get someone similar in playstyle to say… Darian McKinnon, then I would be happy with that.
Neilson’s strategy for the attacking three behind Safranko right now is McMullan centrally with King on the left and Aird on the right, each of which will continually swap positions with each other throughout the match. This fluidity gives each player the freedom to create chances as they wish and confuses the opposing defences as they struggle to get to grips with a different player coming at them each attack. The issue with this is that these three players are the only players at the club who naturally suit this tactic. Craig Curran and Nicky Clark, though they have tried, don’t fit on the wing, and Loemba hasn’t been trusted to even be given a chance apart from a brief cameo against Inverness. Bringing someone who can suit this role will put the pressure on these players to perform consistently as well as allow fresh blood to come in if and when they drop their performance level.
Sam Wardrop – Loan
I won’t lie, I was delighted with the signing of Wardrop. An actual right back! After a season of watching Murdoch fail at right back with only a brief respite in watching Tony Ralston, I and the rest of the United support were desperate for a natural right back.
So what’s gone wrong? I don’t actually know. He’s only played one league game, and while not playing well, no one played well that day against Dunfermline so it feels weird that he’d be the one to be singled out and dropped. However, Neilson has also came in and decided that he isn’t good enough for the first team squad either, even preferring to put Watson on the right over him.
I’ve already said that United will look to bring in a right back, so I think it makes sense that Wardrop heads somewhere on loan, gets some game time and comes back for next season, wherever we may be.
Jamie Robson – Loan
Jamie Robson is not good enough to be as controversial as he is. His stupidity last year by having his mate film himself drink driving with a pint of venom in his other hand was somehow eclipsed recently when photos came out of the Left Back dressed in blackface. Somehow, he wasn’t sacked and has instead been sent on “Diversity and Inclusion training” (I’m guessing all those Show Racism The Red Card event just went over his head, like most through balls). These incidents haven’t been helped by his consistently poor performances on the park, making the mediocre Callum Booth looking like a vast improvement. I think some time away from Tannadice would do him some good, possibly to a lower league Championship team or even to League One.
Matej Rakovan – Permanent
United signed two goalkeepers in the summer, Benjamin Siegrist and Matej Rakovan. the former has been mediocre, not fantastic but hasn’t made any major gaffes and the rest of the team tend to look comfortable when he’s in goal. The latter is shite. United have conceded 5 goals at home twice, 9 of which were conceded by Rakovan (he came on half-way through the first half in the second match already one-nil down). As well as this, he’s demonstrated an ability to fail to save simple shots as well as failing to read opposition crosses leading to free headers. Finally, the United defence just don’t look as comfortable with Rakovan in goal compared to Siegrist, likely due to Siegrist, Bouhenna, Frans, and Edjenguele all sharing a common fluency in French, while Rakovan is only just learning English. Rakovan’s just not good enough, and with Deniz Mehmet coming back from injury in January, Rakovan should leave to make way.
Yannick Loemba – Permanent
Oh Yannick… what could’ve been eh? Loemba made an immediately good first impression, with a strong debut off the bench against Elgin (I know, but United fans were desperate at that point… actually we still are), and his social media presence showed someone desperate to impress and fit in. However, he has since proved to be all hype, failing to perform in league games except for two assists against Partick Thistle and Falkirk, not much of an achievement considering those two teams recent luck. A favourite of Laszlo, he’s barely featured since Neilson’s arrival, who clearly doesn’t think that the Congolese winger would fit into the rotating attacking midfield three of McMullan, King, and Aird. This, added onto his recent social media post about “missing football”, means he’s likely heading back to mainland Europe come January.
Adam Barton – Permanent
Adam Barton is a frustrating player to watch. There is obvious quality which can be seen when he has the ball at his feet but he’s just so fucking lazy! It’s like he’s never been told that it’s possible to run faster than a light jog, and so he just aimlessly runs about the pitch like a retired footballer in a charity match or Andrea Pirlo in the MLS. The most he’s done all season is rattle the Partick Thistle support by existing, which, while certainly being commendable, is unlikely to be enough to convince Neilson, especially since the manager has already decided to play Christoph Rabitsch over him, since even though the German is clumsy and runs like a character in a PlayStation 2 game before they had the animations down, he’s at least been more effective than Barton.
Thomas Scobbie – Permanent/Loan
Remember him? Scobbie is currently away on loan at Partick Thistle, and I don’t see it being likely that when he returns this month he’ll be back in the first team in any capacity. He’ll definitely be gone, either on loan or his contract being mutually terminated.
To conclude, what we need most is some quality depth. Our first team, minus the right back, is pretty good. However, as soon as injuries inevitably happen, we’re going to be stuck with players that simply are not good enough at this level, or in Rakovan’s case, any level. This January window is going to be massive to the success of the squad this season, and hopefully, the players can be brought in to push this team to the title.