Leyton Orient’s January transfer window: Dan Kemp’s departure is a gamble as O’s look to lift themselves into Play-Offs

6 min

“We are going to be fairly aggressive in this transfer window – the board has approved some extra funds”, Leyton Orient chairman Nigel Travis told BBC London Sport a fortnight ago.

A quote that at the time raised expectation levels in E10, it was also one continually brought up on social media during Deadline Day as many supporters expressed doubts over Orient’s January business.

In some areas the O’s are undoubtedly stronger than they were on January 1st. However, due to a combination of injuries and outgoings, they also seem weaker in others.

Following the injury to Tom James, Orient were in desperate need of a right-back going into the window. The fact they now have two on their books heading into the busiest period of the season is a definite positive.

Both Otis Khan and Dan Moss complement each other well in their strengths and weaknesses and give manager Kenny Jackett different options down the right-hand side.

Khan, signed after his short-term deal at Walsall expired, brings pace and creativity as well as League Two experience, having reached the division’s Play-Offs in two of the last three seasons.

The more defensively-minded Moss will be hoping to follow in the footsteps of fellow Millwall loanee Alex Mitchell and bring consistency and solidity to the right flank.

The news that Mitchell will be forced to undergo surgery at some point soon, plus a hamstring injury to Shad Ogie has meant Jackett also needed to bolster his centre-back options as the O’s prepare for a run of 14 games in two months.

With this in mind, 28-year-old loan signing George Ray is a solid addition. Much like Khan, the 6’4 defender has plenty of League Two experience and can swiftly slot in having already made 19 appearances for Exeter City this campaign.

The same can largely be said for the loan signing of Frank Nouble with the forward’s arrival met with derision from a significant portion of the Orient fanbase, mainly due to the forward’s poor goal scoring record and lack of game time at strugglers Colchester.

It’s a fair criticism, but the 30-year-old has been brought in knowing he’s going to be behind Harry Smith, Aaron Drinan and arguably even Ruel Sotiriou in the pecking order.

READ MORE: Poor away record could prove fatal for Leyton Orient’s League Two promotion hopes

Signing players that are going to be content without consistent minutes can be a tricky business, especially in January, so given Nouble’s physicality and knowhow he can probably be regarded as an upgrade on Norwich’s Tyrese Omotoye whose loan deal was cut short earlier in the window.

As young talented players who have come through Category One Academies and are now hungry for regular EFL action, both Ethan Coleman and Jordan Brown are exactly the type of smart signings Orient should be making more often.

Coleman has signed from King’s Lynn Town where he had been earmarked by those well connected in the game as “one to make the step up” after coming through the Reading Academy.

Meanwhile, Brown joins from Derby County where he starred in their unlikely run to the knock-out stages of the UEFA Youth League in 2020.

Though both seem a good fit for the level, initially at least, the duo will need to be surrounded by some experience in central midfield as they find their feet in league football.

A lack of senior available bodies meant at one point during Saturday’s defeat to Mansfield Town Orient’s midfield consisted of Coleman (22), Brown (20) and Matt Young (18) before Brown was replaced by Hector Kyprianou (20).

READ MORE: “I’m a kid from Brixton, I can rough it with the best of them” – Kevin Campbell on his first taste of professional football with Leyton Orient

Jackett picked up on the lack of experience in his side following the defeat saying: “With one or two boys out we’re very young and in terms of ability we have some, but game knowledge of League Two is a big thing and Mansfield had it today and we didn’t.”

An improved display from previously exiled club captain Darren Pratley against Bradford in mid-week has eased those worries slightly but until Callum Reilly returns to full fitness it still feels like an area of concern.

Despite the lack of experience in the heart of midfield at least the O’s have plenty of numbers in that position – although the same can’t be said for attacking midfielders.

With Paul Smyth sidelined for the remainder of the season with a punctured lung, the departure of Dan Kemp to MK Dons in the final hours of the window felt unexpected.

After joining last January from West Ham, Kemp was arguably Orient’s player of the season in the second half of the campaign as he racked up five goals and three assists in 24 outings.

This season he only managed two assists in 19 matches but nevertheless there have been flashes of quality. 

Furthermore, Orient have scored four or more goals in a match six times so far this campaign and Kemp started five of those games in the creatively integral number ten position.

READ MORE: From Laurie Cunningham to Lawrence Vigouroux, Leyton Orient can be proud of their diverse past, present and future

For a side who have scored just once in their last six, to get rid of such a player without a replacement represents a significant gamble, especially to a side such as MK Dons who are developing a reputation for recruiting quality creative players on a budget.

Jackett’s switch to a 4-3-3 against Bradford demonstrated the direction he wants to go in with his re-jigged squad but you still feel there are going to be times where an added dash of creativity in midfield is required.

It’s been a busy window for Orient and supporters will now have to wait and see whether it was ‘aggressive’ enough to shift the O’s from their current predicament of mid-table mediocrity into their stated goal as Play-Off contenders.

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