Preston North End have been a bit of an enigma so far in the Championship this season and that’s why we should take a look at a potential Preston North End transfer strategy for the January transfer window.
Preston North End Transfer Strategy
Preston North End Have Inconsistent League Form
Their form has been inconsistent and surprising throughout the campaign so far – the club’s last game was a solid 1-0 win over Bristol City. Before that though, they were a side that lost 2-1 to Barnsley and were outclassed and outperformed by Luton as they lost 3-0.
At one point, North End had the second-worst home record in the league. They’ve now only lost one of their last five games at Deepdale. Away from home, they were deemed an unstoppable force and, although they’re still fourth in the away form rankings, they’ve won just one of their last five away games.
Owner Trevor Hemmings Not Splashing the Cash
In that respect, you can never truly guess what Preston team you’ll be up against this season. Why is that? Some North End fans have put it down to manager Alex Neil and his tactics while a majority of others believe it comes down to a number of factors that ultimately land at the feet of owner Trevor Hemmings and the fact he chooses not to splash the cash, while also leaving several key player’s contracts up in the air.
Alex Neil also sounds a frustrated figure due to the lack of investment from the club and if he becomes too agitated by the lack of spending, it could lead to the most severe consequences.
Considering how big a January transfer window PNE need (and could have) here is a four-point plan on what North End need to do heading into the mid-season window.
Tie Down Key Player’s Contracts
First on the agenda for the club should be to ensure the side’s most important players are tied up to new deals. Four of the team’s most important players (Ben Davies, Daniel Johnson, Ben Pearson and Alan Browne) have contracts that expire at the end of the current campaign.
With uncertainty about the new deals and whether or not Preston’s key players will put pen-to-paper on them, it leaves North End playing under a bit of a shroud of uncertainty in regards to whether this will be the last season with them or not.
It’s bound to have an effect on whether the team plays well and also means that, until the future of these players is sorted, they could be looking elsewhere while playing their games.
O’Neil: Pearson ‘the Best Number Six in the Championship’
Ben Davies has quickly established himself as arguably the most solid defender at the club. He’s a regular starter in the side and is key to the way that North End play their football.
Ben Pearson joined as a youngster from Manchester United and has gone from strength-to-strength ever since. His dominating displays in the centre of midfield have also made him one of, if not the most, important player in a PNE shirt. In fact, former Portsmouth man Gary O’Neil recently stated that he believes Pearson to be the best number six in the Championship.
Alan Browne was signed as a youngster from Cork and has become one of the most versatile and accomplished players in the team. His main position is as a midfielder or attacking midfielder but he can also fill in – and do a solid job – as a right-back too.
Daniel Johnson Pivotal to Preston North End Transfer Strategy
The most pivotal part to Preston’s transfer strategy is Daniel Johnson. The Jamaican was the club’s top goalscorer last season and after his transition from central midfield into a more attack-minded player, the former Aston Villa man has flourished.
All four are so important and pivotal to the way North End want to play and set up each game. Davies is key to getting the ball out of defence and forward with his passing ability, Pearson is not only tremendous with his passing and vision but is so good at collecting the ball just in front of the defence, Browne is so useful to have because of his versatility and Johnson proves a threat in front of the goal.
One of the most important things to do then will be to tie them all down to new deals. These players are the spine of the team and letting them leave for nothing in the summer would be disastrous for North End.
Whether it’s Alex Neil who needs to sit down with them or Trevor Hemmings or Peter Ridsdale, the business needs to be done soon.
Sell the Fringe Players
The Preston squad is currently packed to its maximum. The club is allowed to register a 25-man team to play in the Championship and all of the spots are currently filled.
David Nugent hasn’t even made the squad, so one of the first orders of business will be to either offload him as they failed to in the summer or, at the very least, send him out on loan to relieve some of the wage bill.
Loan Deals for the Team’s Younger Players
In addition, a deal could be sorted in January for someone like Billy Bodin, whether its to send him out on loan or permanently. He’s struggling to break into the first-team currently and with his contract due to expire, it could be worth offering the player to other clubs.
Furthermore, to free up even more room, the players that Alex Neil deems unworthy of playing time currently – or at least won’t help the first-team squad currently – should perhaps be touted to other teams on loan so that they can play elsewhere and improve while freeing up space for proper improvements for the Lilywhites.
Tom Bayliss is a promising player and looks good but, for whatever reason, can’t break into the starting lineup. The same could be said for Josh Harrop. If they’re both going to find it hard to break into the team, it could be worth sending them out on a short-term basis to a different team.
Improve in the Centre-Back Position
With Patrick Bauer ruled out for the season, it means he could not be in the 25-man squad from January.
It does, though, leave a gap in the centre of the defence. Jordan Storey is still young and may not bd ready for regular first-team football, while Paul Huntington is getting on and has been shaky in the club’s recent games.
Therefore, a defender should be of the utmost importance in January. Rather than the owners leaving Alex Neil without an option again, the owners must back the manager.
Back Manager Alex Neil
The main thing for the club to do is back the man in charge.
Boss Alex Neil is a man who has previous experience in taking a team into the Premier League. He’s also managed to take North End to near playoff misses in the side’s recent seasons, finishing seventh and ninth in recent years.
However, the manager has cut a frustrated figure recently when it comes to transfer dealings and contract signings. He looks like a man who is growing tired of a club that won’t sign the targets that he wants.
Unless North End want the man to leave, they’ll have to do more to support their manager.
The club’s boss has consistently said he would like to bring in a certain type of player and that he would like players in a number of areas and better depth too.
Rather than the owner leaving their manager with another transfer window with no transfer dealings that he wants, now is the time to back him and finally let the man work with a squad that he is truly happy with.
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