Walsall comment: Left-field signing now needs some balance
Tying down Wes McDonald to a new contract was essential for Walsall, but now it’s time to kick on during the January transfer window.
The 22-year-old winger has been one of the stand-out performers this season.
His delivery to the forwards and piercing attacking runs down the left wing have made the Saddlers a far more potent attack in recent months.
His five goals this season have seen him become a fan-favourite and made his free transfer in the summer look a bargain.
The former Birmingham academy product has failed to produce this form anywhere else, however, and Walsall took a risk on him with a six-month contract in the summer.
But after months of negotiation he put pen to paper on an new 18-month deal this week, and it’s the best news that fans could have had.
Everyone connected to the club was aware of how important this deal was, particularly as the squad is short of wingers in the first place.
Had McDonald left, Saddlers would have needed to replace him, whilst also securing new attacking signings which would have likely meant the squad would be missing a key element for the rest of the season.
His signature now allows Darrell Clarke to concentrate on where to add players, rather than replacing important ones that leave.
As the manager has rightly identified, more wide players are the focus this month.
A right winger is now desperately needed. Rory Holden has come on leaps and bounds in the last few months and could potentially have a good second half of the season, but he isn’t a winger by any means.
Time and again, the 22-year-old has had to fill in on the right of midfield in a 4-4-2 to allow McDonald to occupy the opposite wing.
When Holden plays more centrally, which he has recently, he thrives.
So a right winger is a must to balance this side.
As a whole, the squad needs beefing up with a couple of new faces, which may also include a new striker.
Despite agreeing a fee with Leamington, the Saddlers missed out on Josh March who instead chose to join Forest Green Rovers.
If the right player comes up, Walsall seem keen to add firepower up front with Josh Gordon and Caolan Lavery the two main starters – while Rory Gaffney and Elijah Adebayo have struggled.
A position that Walsall should perhaps look at is central midfield.
They have several good options in that position but with Danny Guthrie and Stuart Sinclair struggling with injury, depth is needed.
Particularly a bigger, more physical midfielder could be useful with Alfie Bates and Liam Kinsella of a similar build to Guthrie and Sinclair.
But, the academy is particularly important to the club and when talent emerges it acts like a new signing.
Midfielder Sam Perry had an excellent debut this week and the 18-year-old could breakthrough into the first team in the second half of the season.