The last six weeks have been dominated by talk of squad building. The transfer window finally shut this week, so did we actually develop the all-singing, all-dancing squad we hoped for?
The deadline day itself was quieter than anticipated, but the sole signing was a significant one. Bryce Hosanah wasn’t the type of player we expected to see arriving at The Racecourse, but he tells us quite a lot about how Phi Parkinson is building his squad.
On the face of it, we seem to be well catered for at right wing-back already. Admittedly, Reece Hall-Johnson has picked up a medium-term injury, but Tyler French has been a physical, energetic replacement. To bring Hosanah in permanently rather than seek an on-loan solution until Christmas was revealing.
Firstly, it showed that the coaching staff are probably looking at French as an important option at centre back. French had a good pre-season in both positions and has carried that forward into the competitive matches. He was resolute under pressure at Solihull playing in the centre of defence, and has been direct and physical since he started filling in for Hall-Johnson.
Bringing Hosanah in means we didn’t have to draft in another centre back. I like the idea of having two good players for every position – that was certainly the basis on which Dean Keates developed last season’s squad, and we clearly have enough quality to play three at the back, because French and the emerging quality of Max Cleworth means we have six central defenders Parkinson is happy to trust.
Hosanah’s signing also confirms what we already can see about our style of play. A couple of years working at Leeds under the High Priest of Pressing and Direct Passing, Marcelo Bielsa, will have prepared him for what is expected of him by Parkinson.
We’re playing a similar mould of football to the Chilean guru, with direct passing piercing the lines and organised, strategic pressing winning the ball back in the opposing half. Hosanah comes oven-fresh and ready to slot into what Parkinson is assembling.
Perhaps this also explains why we haven’t brought in the midfield enforcer many fans were hoping for. I see the logic of bringing in a player like that, but having considered how we’ve gone about business in the last three games, I think I see why that wasn’t a priority.
We protect our defensive line by pushing it up the pitch, reducing the space between the lines, and challenging teams to play through our press or play an accurate ball in behind us while under pressure. If they manage the latter, they’ll then have to contend with a speedy back line: one of my guilty pleasures this season has been watching Aaron Hayden give strikers a head start and then purr past them like he’s hardly trying!
A defensive midfielder would operate in those spaces between midfield and defence; if there’s no space in there, there’s no urgent need for such a player.
So has Parkinson’s squad-building achieved what he will have hoped for? I think so. We pass the test of having options in every position, and there’s some terrific quality spread across the pitch. We might have expected a different type of final signing to wrap the squad up, but by allowing others to be deployed in different areas I think we’ll find that signing Bryce is right.