Millwall’s January transfer window: Gary Rowett’s Lions find themselves at a crossroads

4 min

Winless runs, unbeaten streaks, injury crises and performances swinging from sublime to disastrous – Millwall’s season has been a roller coaster so far. 

The Lions currently sit five points off the Championship Play-Off places but have struggled to provide the consistency to suggest they are genuine promotion contenders.

Therefore, as the January transfer window approaches, they find themselves at a crossroads – do they stick with what they’ve got or twist and stretch the budget for an all-out promotion push?

Last Saturday’s defeat away to Peterborough confirmed the current squad lacks the quality to mount a serious Play-Off push yet perversely this season’s Championship seems the weakest it has been for years.

With sides having to deal with packed fixture lists, potential COVID postponements and the African Cup of Nations, it is shaping up to be a close-run battle to finish in the top six. 

But even if Millwall were to roll the dice and reinforce their squad, there’s still no guarantee for success while the continued effects of the pandemic could also make deals hard to get across the line.

One thing that has predominantly marked Gary Rowett’s Millwall tenure has been the continued absence of a creative influence in the final third to provide consistent, quality chances.

The current squad lacks someone who can open up a defence and feed the runs in behind from Benik Afobe and Tom Bradshaw, forcing the Lions to focus attacks down the flanks and ultimately placing an undue burden on Jed Wallace.

And with the aforementioned out of contract next summer, the Lions will also need to start thinking about how they are to replace his phenomenal goal and assist record.

Rowett has admitted he is aware of the issue and, despite interest in the likes of Josh Windass and Luke Freeman last summer, has been unable to add that advanced playmaker he so desperately needs.

While replacing Wallace is a relatively new problem, the left-hand side has been a perennial one for generations with Millwall unable to match a talented right winger with a left-sided counterpart.

READ MORE: Should Millwall recall Sutton United loanee Isaac Olaofe in January?

Although Connor Mahoney is once again injured, it does seem as though he may never live up to the expectation that surrounded him when he first arrived from AFC Bournemouth in July 2019.

Meanwhile, Mason Bennett has performed manfully but struggled for fitness and seems destined to feature as an occasional cameo while Sheyi Ojo has failed to make an impact since arriving late in the summer window – assisting only twice in his fifteen appearances. 

Elsewhere, Mahlon Romeo’s abrupt loan exit at the end of the summer transfer window took many by surprise and left Danny McNamara as the only genuine right-back in the squad.

As a homegrown talent, McNamara undoubtedly has the backing of the fans but has had to work hard to prove himself in the eyes of Rowett.

Ryan Leonard, the usual understudy at right wing-back, is currently out with injury for three months and although Billy Mitchell has occasionally filled in, his recent performances in his preferred central midfield position should discourage the Millwall boss from using him as a stop-gap.

Therefore, depth is needed, ideally on a short term basis, until Romeo’s future is clear and the Lions can properly plan for next season.

However, if Millwall decided to stick with what they’ve got for the remainder of the season, a rebuilding project will still be needed in the summer with not just Wallace out of contract.

But with a number of exciting youth prospects out on loan, perhaps it is more sensible for the Lions to bide their time and rebuild with a core of youngsters next season.

In the current financial climate, gambling for the short-term could be a big risk but perhaps a few shrewd additions might not necessarily be a bad thing.

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