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If He Stays Fit

Lucas Joao has been a crucial part of this side for the better part of a year now. His stock seemingly rises every match, whether he plays or not. Every Joao related take is notably prefaced with "If he stays fit". The problem is, judging by history, that's a completely unrealistic expectation. He's never completed 2,000 league minutes in a season in his professional career - which itself would be under half the number of minutes in a Championship campaign.


So then there is the natural desire to sign a Joao replacement, particularly after the issues last season without him in the side. Pedro Mendes has been touted as the missing piece, and one Serbian account even suggested Ivan Saponjic, a player in Paunović's U20 Serbian side, as someone with a similar style. In Mendes' case, are we really going to spend £5m on a player who won't be the first choice? 

If we do end up signing a replacement, what happens to George Puscas? He did enough last season to be considered the understudy, and it'd be surprising to put him on the scrap heap after our outlay to bring him here last season. Then there are the other strikers in the squad, namely Baldock and McNulty. Those who think moving them on will be simple appear to have missed a great many players who have run down their contracts recently. We could even discuss Meite and his role. Lead goalscorer in both of the last two seasons, does he slot straight back into the squad? If not, do you think he'd be happy having another player in front of him for a starting space?

While I completely agree we looked a worse team without Lucas last year, Paunović may have solutions that Bowen wasn't able to conjure. His 4-2-3-1 may be able to get players in support of Puscas in a way that the previous regime's 4-1-4-1 struggled. His inclusion of Nahum Melvin-Lambert in the Colchester XVIII may even suggest he's looking at other options within the squad. There are clear areas of the squad that could do with the investment first. 

As exciting as Joao can be, we shouldn't assume that he'll be our main striker this season. It's folly. But we shouldn't necessarily be looking externally to future proof the side either.

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