Now that Pantsil’s off to the ACN (and perhaps for longer if his knee injury is worse than feared), who’s going to play at right-back? Whoever it’s going to be has quite a job to live up to: Pantsil was outstanding against Didier Drogba this afternoon, and has been marvelous since his joined the club in the summer of 2008. The options:
Stephen Kelly: Injured at the moment (which is why Kallio was recalled so soon after his loan was extended), and I’m not sure how long he’s going to be out for. Whilst looking ok there, he hasn’t especially shone. However, in the home game against Basel, he dovetailed superbly down the right with Riise, and has plenty of Premier League experience at RB (more than most 25-year-olds). This could be his chance to show what he can properly do if he regains his fitness soon.
Chris Baird: At most an emergency right-back. Plus, he has been so impressive in centre-midfield that he should not be moved from there. His reading of the game is magnificent, resulting in him making multiple important interceptions, often nicking the ball from the feet of the opposition’s playmaker. Starting to develop a good partnership with Murphy, and with Etuhu going to the ANC too, that leaves Greening as the only other option (not sure if Dikgacoi is going as well). Whilst he’s done ok there, Baird deserves to keep his place next to Danny.
Aaron Hughes: Has played at right-back for Newcastle, Aston Villa and Northern Ireland, so will know what he is doing there. This move would also allow Chris Smalling to get more game time in between Hughes and Hangeland. However, Hughes does appear to be the one who leads and organises the defence, and this might be difficult for him to do at right-back.
Fredrik Stoor: This would be an interesting one. Wants first-team football, but seems keen to leave the club too. A good spell in the side could be his chance to alert interest in him from other clubs, meaning that he can leave and we can get a decent return from our investment in him. Equally, if he plays well enough, he could show Hodgson what he can offer the side, and get more game time in the future. Was injured recently at Derby though, and am unsure when he will be fit again to play.
Chris Smalling: Has impressed so far at centre-back, and this could be an opportunity for him to get more experience in the first-team. In addition, it could be invaluable for him to get a further understanding of a full-back’s role, and make him a more versatile player. However, he doesn’t seem to have the pace to play at full-back, and having performed so well in the centre, it would be demanding and rather unfair for him to be asked to do so in an unfamiliar postion.
Keanu Marsh-Brown: Regarded as one of Fulham’s most promising prospects. An attacking right-back, now a regular in the development squad, but having never played for the first team, it would be a massive surprise if Hodgson elected to thrust him into the starting line-up.
Or perhaps there is some substance to Hodgson’s reported interest in Tottenham’s Alan Hutton….