By Keiran Fleming
The Arabs are spending another year fighting for promotion after a disappointing defeat in the play-off final to Saint Mirren last season. This will be the fourth season United have spent in the championship which is four too many. They began the 2018-19 season dismally leading to Csaba Laszlo being sacked, this led to the appointment of Robbie Neilson. If the season had started when the new boss took over Dundee United would have been playing in the Scottish Premiership this season.
With this being the first Summer with new owners this transfer window has a very exciting one for the Arabs so far.
A lot of the squad overhaul occurred in January where united signed a total of 11 players. The summer has been used mainly for shifting deadweight and bring in quality rather than quantity. However, they are still in desperate need of another centre back.
So far this Summer the Arabs have seen eight players leave the club, Fyvie, King, Gomis, Nesbitt, Murdoch, Toshney, Scobbie and Edjenguele. United fans should be happy with the departures so far because none of the players were key to the way Neilson likes his side to play football. When they did play it was dire to watch.
Fyvie is a great passer but he puts in no effort when it comes to defending and with the arrival of Harkes in january, who has impressed so far, he will not be missed; King spent last season on loan to Gillingham; Butcher is a huge upgrade on Gomis; Nesbitt was a disappointment last season; Reynolds and Connoly are better options than Scobbie and Edjenguele at the back; Murdoch was on loan at East Fife last season and Toshney was relegated from League One last season whilst on loan at Brechin.
One thing fans should worry about is the possible departure of goalkeeper Benjamin Siegrist who was one of United’s most impressive players in the back half of the season. The shot stopper has one year left on his contract and has strongly been linked with a move to Nottingham Forest. If United are to get promoted this Season and cement their place back in the top flight they need to lock down their number one keeper for a few more years.
Dundee United have signed four players so far this Summer. The permanent signing of Mark Reynolds is brilliant for United. Reynolds is still a Premiership quality defender that has a lot of experience and he will act as a strong leader for the team. Although signing the 32 year old on a three year contract is financially questionable. I can see another two decent years from a player of that age but three years is a big risk.
Ayr United’s right back Liam Smith is also set to join up with the Arabs next season. The 23 year-old really impressed with Ayr last season and was a transfer target for Dundee United in January. Right back has been a real problem area for the Tangerines since being relegated. Seaman acted as a decent place holder last season but the signing of Smith shows that the owners are looking to the future. The fullback has signed a two year deal and with age on his side his value as a player will just rise.
The third and most intriguing signing is Argentinian left back Adrian Sporle. The fullback has had an impressive tenure at Banfield appearing 54 times in four years. His most impressive season was the 2017-18 season where he appeared 20 times, made 3.4 interceptions per 90 and made 3.7 tackles per 90. Last season he did see a drop off, he made 10 appearances, 2.7 interceptions per 90 and 1.6 tackles. The 23 year old has penned a three year contract with the Arabs. He seems to be a huge upgrade on Robson, who can be quite immature and unpredictable at fullback. The addition could see Robson move further up the pitch where he could become an excellent winger.
United’s marquee signing is striker Lawerence Shankland. The forward was extraordinary last season for Ayr United scoring 31 goals in 41 games this was more than double Safranko, who scored 15 goals last season. This is a real coup for the Arabs as Shankland had been linked with clubs in the premier league and with clubs south of the border. Signing last season’s top goalscorer shows real ambition from the club’s hierarchy. The forward is still only 23 and has shown that he is most definitely a top flight striker. At his age he will only get better and if he replicates his form from last season then United are definitely going up. Shankland has signed a three year contract at Tannadice making him United’s most valuable asset. This signing shows that the board are thinking about life beyond the Championship.
Neilson has completed his main goal which was to sign a star striker to replace Safranko this season. Although the club should also be looking to bring in another centre back for cover and also possibly to replace Connoly, who is the weak link in United’s back line.
The preferred centre back option would have been Michael Rose from Ayr United but he is set for a move to Coventry. The 23 year-old would have been the perfect fit for Dundee United and he has bags of potential. Other options include Saint Johnstone’s Joe Shaughnessy who can provide cover, premiership experience and leadership to the backline. Shaughnessy is still only 26 and he is yet to enter his prime as a player. Although it would take a lot to persuade him, Shaughnessy is available on a free this summer.
Another prospect could be Fiacre Kelleher from Oxford. He was loaned to Macclesfield and appeared 42 times. Although they were relegation struggles the 23 year old did impress whilst out on loan. The Irishman’s contract also expires this Summer and he is probably a more realistic signing than Shaughnessy.
The final suggestion is closer to home, Jason Brown is a 22 year-old that plays for Peterhead. He is consistently in the starting 11 and shows great maturity for his age. Brown is also extremely versatile, playing as a centre back, a right back and in the centre of midfield. Last season he made over 40 appearances for the Blue Toon who were eventually crowned champions of League 2. Although this is a risky transfer it is the most interesting with a huge payout if it is successful.
It looks as though the Tangerines are set to give youth more of a chance this season. Louis Appere, once a trialist at Roma, has scored 2 goals so far during pre-season. The 20-year-old has really impressed on the left wing and is looking to become a rotation player this campaign. Logan Chalmers also looks as though he has a bright future at Tannadice. The 19-year-old played twice in the league last year but it looks like he is set to get even more opportunities to impress this coming season. Scott Banks really impressed whilst out on loan at Clyde last season appearing 15 times and getting 4 goal contributions. The 17-year-old winger ran rings round the Brechin defence for the last 20 minutes of the game on Friday. Banks should expect another loan move to a league 1 side or to play bit part role in the upcoming campaign. The final and most exciting Talent for Dundee United is 16-year-old Chris Mochrie. The attacking midfielder became United’s youngest ever player when he came on against Morton back in May. The youngster has already been watched Manchester City and looks as though he is becoming a big part of Robbie Neilson’s future plans.
Dundee United have the strongest team and the best head coach by far in the division. The team consists of a lot of players that are ready for top flight football. With the backing of ambitious new owners the Arabs should run away with the championship this season. Financially they are head and shoulders above the rest of the league. If they are unable to get promoted as title winners it will be a hugely disappointing season.