Disappointment: this would be a perfect way to sum up Newcastle United’s season. With high expectations after a pleasantly surprising 5th placed finish, Newcastle went backwards-finishing 15th. Change is needed. With Alan Pardew clearly, and for some sadly, staying that change will not be the manager leaving.
Pardew has rightly come under criticism for the poor performances of last season. However, he should not be blamed for every single thing which went wrong. While bemusing substitutions and tactical decisions were made, Moussa Sissoko right wing being a great example, Pardew actually has very little control on his player’s performance levels. Another thing that Pardew cannot control is the club. People forget that the Premier League Manager of the Year 2011/2012 was Pardew. Football fans are fickle, especially Newcastle fans (myself included). This time last year Pardew was due a knighthood and Hatem Ben-Arfa was on par with Lionel Messi. Does anyone remember the Pardewiola tag? How times change! Pardew is the puppet; he says and does what he is told to do. He receives his orders from the high-command. If only his nose grew like Pinocchio when he was lying!
Rather like a foreign style coach, it seems that Pardew asks for a player in a certain position and Graham Carr recommends one. Pardew then begs Mike Ashley to part with his precious cash. This was harder to do last summer, as Ashley believed that building while ahead was unnecessary. Vurnon Anita was the only notable signing, a direct replacement for Danny Guthrie. Anita looks unsuited to Pardew’s unattractive style, and, at times worryingly unsuited to the Premier League. Why does Pardew not play him as a water-carrier? It is always imperative to strengthen while ahead, a thing which Sir Alex Ferguson was very adept at doing with Manchester United.
To be honest Newcastle were the luckiest team that I have ever seen in their 2011/2012 season. Players and staff seemed to believe the huge plaudits they were gaining from media and fans. The plaudits were largely false; when the Toon lost in the 5th place season they lost badly. 4-0 away to Wigan is a personal lowlight. (Also, the pies were actually poor, which ruined my day even more. Shame Blackburn didn’t come up, their pies are the best). The plaudits led to bad things. The players seemed to be arrogant this season. When things went wrong, players realised they were not the real deal, that Danny Simpson should not earn an England place. Funny how Simpson, supposedly England’s best right back, has been released now! I have seen fans on forums stating that Yohan Cabaye would fit into Barcelona’s midfield. One delusional fan even stated that he was better than Xavi; a popular choice for the greatest midfield passer of all time.
Stupid rumours, as are so often directed Newcastle’s way by the cruel press, have started once again. Still, Mike Ashley looks unwilling to spend much money without a departure. Why is anyone surprised? Reports have suggested that only two players will be signed this window, barring departures. Panic buttons were pressed in January when Ashley desperately brought five players in a bid to keep Newcastle up. These were the players Newcastle should have signed in the summer. Panic buttons will be pressed again unless there is change.
To improve the squad, more than two players need to be signed. Newcastle need at least one quality winger for the loyal, yet ageing and ineffective (at left midfield) Jonás Gutiérrez. Two creative players are needed, as at the moment Cabaye and Ben Arfa are the only creative magic. A right back to provide competition for Mathieu Debuchy is needed as is a centre-back when Mike Williamson and/or Fabricio Coloccini leave.
So here is the alternative outlook: why not start again? Paris Saint-Germain and Monaco have been linked with a few of the Frenchies, but Ben-Arfa and Cabaye have been the most strongly linked. Newcastle should offer Cabaye and Ben-Arfa to them for around £30million each. Obviously the players are not worth this amount, but, as the old cliché goes, money is blind. Papiss Cissé has also been linked with a move out of Tyneside, with Anzhi Makhachkala quoted with a £15million move for the number 9. Another Russian club, Lokomotiv Moscow, have been linked with Cheik Tioté. Offer him to the Muscovites for £20million. Russian clubs have a lot of money and often pay inflated fees due to their desperation to secure an established western-European footballer. Mike Williamson may also depart for £2million to Leicester City.
The majority of the Toon Army will now be in outrage at me simply suggesting that their beloved club sell their beloved idols. Cabaye this season has looked tired and overused. The team is far too reliant on him as a creative force.
Ben-Arfa has a terrible injury record and while unbeatable at his best is far too inconsistent. I would miss his majestic trickery if he departs but there are replacements out there.
Cissé was a terribly frustrating player to watch last season. His 2011/2012 half season for Newcastle was based on crazy impulse goals, which seem to have dried up. His stand on refusing to wear a shirt with ‘Wonga’ written on it (fair enough it is his religious beliefs) might be enough to convince Ashley to sell him. Cissé is also demanding an improved deal (more debateable) despite having signed a 5 and half year deal in January 2012.
Tioté is still living off his stunning equaliser against Arsenal. This season he has been a liability for Newcastle, losing the ball and giving away stupid fouls. While the role Pardew plays him in may be the issue, a big enough offer should be accepted. Mike Williamson will be a popular departure if he leaves, £2million would be an absolutely brilliant deal for Newcastle.
Selling our two most creative players may appear risky to people, but it really isn’t. With a potential £97million to re-invest into the squad, Ashley has to sell the players. (It will be more like £50million as clubs aren’t stupid). Two strikers, two wingers, two creators, a right back and a centre back could all be brought for that sort of money. The squad would look much better. Newcastle need to try and invest outside of Ligue 1, otherwise we will ‘overfish’ the area. There are other leagues, such as the Eredivise, which contain cheap, young talent. There are many transfer options but, REALISTICALLY, here is the signings that I would make:
1) Centre Back-Stefan de Vrij: The 21 year old Dutch defender has been linked with Newcastle before. He has been very solid at centre-back for Feyernoord this season, impressing fans. £6million
2) Right Back-Šime Vrsaljko: The 21 year old Croat plays for Dinamo Zagreb. He is a great attacking full-back and is highly regarded by the coaching staff. If Vrsaljko manages to adapt to England he will be a brilliant player. £3million
3) Creator 1-Leroy Fer: The 23 year old Dutchman is a perfect replacement for Cabaye, who possesses great passing range and vision. Everton almost signed him from FC Twente but mysteriously pulled out of the deal in January. He has impressed at the U21 UEFA European Championships, scoring a last minute winner against Germany. £8million
4) Creator 2-Adam Maher: The 19 year old Moroccan can play in the centre of midfield or in the hole. He is supremely talented and scored 12 goals last season, assisting 13. £7million
5) Winger 1-Ryad Boudebouz: A bit like Ben-Arfa; a player who can play on the right and cut in or play through the centre. 5 goals and 7 assists this season for the 23 year old Algerian is okay but he will grow. His club FC Sochaux seem willing to let him leave. £5million
6) Winger 2-Dimitri Payet: A left winger who will cut in and score while also assisting with his deadly right foot. He had 22 assists and 13 goals last season. Lille may be unwilling to let him go, so he will be the second most expensive signing. £17million
7) Striker 1-Wilfried Bony: A powerful striker who would suit Pardew’s style of play. He is in high demand though and Vittesse have qualified for the 3rd qualifying round of the Europa League. £10million
8) Striker 2- Philipp Hosiner: The 24 year old Austrian would be an ideal back up striker. He has scored 41 goals in 48 matches this season. His club Austria Wien would probably sell him. £3million
“No player is irreplaceable”-Brendan Rogers
Please note that Newcastle cannot attract high profile players, for example Robert Lewandowski, due to their poor final position last year. Angelo Ogbonna at Torino would be a great signing for Newcastle but with Manchester United linked it is unlikely to materialise. Squad depth and quality is what Newcastle need and Ashley should try and sign more fringe players also.
These players would push Newcastle easily into the top half, the strange target which Derek Llambias has set for Pardew. However, on the whole the players would not suit Pardew’s tactical style at all. A style which is boring, ineffectual and archaic needs to be replaced eventually, surely? If only Ashley fired Pardew and brought in a manager who favours a cultured brand of football. Laurent Blanc or Roberto Di Matteo would fit that résumé. For now though Newcastle fans need to get behind the team, and pray for a few good signings to cheer themselves up!