The reality for fans is that the actual truth of transfers says it would have been a miracle for Newcastle to compete with Southampton.
The narrative at the start of the season was that after losing key players in big money summer moves, the club from the south coast would be in big trouble.
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In two and a half years, the Saints have bought the following nine players who cost £8m or more (figures from transfermkt website);
£13.4m Gaston Ramirez
£8.8m Dejan Lovren
£12.7m Victor Wanyama
£13.2m Pablo Osvaldo
£8.8m Graziano Pelle
£11.0m Fraser Forster
£12.3m Dusan Tadic
£13.1m Shane Long
£13.2m Sadio Mane
In the same period Newcastle have bought one – Remy Cabella for £8.8m (again, stats taken from transfermkt website).
Spending money doesn’t guarantee success but not spending it, pretty much guarantees failure.
Southampton sold four players for £8m or more in the summer (£33.0m Luke Shaw, £27.2m Adam Lallana, £22.2m Dejan Lovren £17.8m Callum Chambers) and they reacted by buying five who cost £8m or more (Mane, Long, Forster, Pell and Tadic).
Again, spending more money doesn’t guarantee they will be successes but it does increase the chances of that being so.
While Southampton were shopping at one level, Mike Ashley refused to fund similar spending for Newcastle – the league table tells us everything.
Imagine if instead of the anticipated announcement of £50m profits for last (2013/14) season, Ashley had sanctioned four or five players at the level the Saints were shopping at?
With the likes of Spurs, Arsenal, Liverpool and Everton all underperforming, a massive opportunity has presented itself to an ambitious club – just a shame it isn’t Newcastle!
Instead we lose big players such as Cabaye, Ba, Debuchy and Remy, then expect to replace them with budget signings, never mind the players Newcastle were already short of.
Janmaat, Perez and Sissoko have all proved great value for money but you have to accept the massive failure rate that goes with this policy – to greater or lesser degrees, none of the following have shown themselves to be good enough as yet, if ever; Gouffran, Haidara, Mapou, Anita, Riviere and so on, while you also have Darlow and Lascelles bought last summer who are struggling to even getting into Championship Forest’s team.
At some point you have to pay the money for quality players to go with those who you get lucky with, buying journeyman Emmanuel Riviere and expecting him to be your main striker in the Premier League is just crazy.
Even on loans, Southampton have shown enterprise to back up their great youth system and big signings, willing to invest (loan fee and big wages) in loan players Toby Alderweireld (Atletico Madrid) and Ryan Bertrand (Chelsea) who have had great seasons, while Dutch international (28 caps) Eljero Elia has been brought in from Werder Bremen this January, in two matches he’s helped them win at Old Trafford and scored both against Newcastle.
At the same time we have the bizarre and unexplained situation where Facundo Ferreyra is brought in on loan yet never gets a minute on the pitch.
While I had no time for Alan Pardew, the fact that Mike Ashley happily sells Newcastle’s best players and tries to replace them with budget signings whilst banking the rest of the cash, is only going to take United one way.
Southampton might half of Newcastle’s crowds but they have ten times the ambition and it is showing, whilst Mike Ashley is at St. James’ Park we will always be also-rans….at best.