If you thought Mike Ashley had played fast and loose with NUFC in his eight seasons of ownership, then you may be surprised to learn that he could be taking his risk taking to a whole new level next August.
Obviously we are all assuming Newcastle will still be in the Premier League next season and if so, Ashley’s biggest wager yet is almost certain to see him banking Premier League survival on the very lowest possible amount of past form.
Much is said about how hard it is to adapt to the Premier League, whether it is younger players coming through the ranks or those brought in from abroad.
If my guesstimates are correct, then Newcastle United will almost certainly be relying on a midfield and attack next season, that has almost no Premier League experience.
For starters, I can’t see Papiss Cisse, Cheick Tiote or Moussa Sissoko still been at St. James’ Park come August.
Sissoko will surely be away looking to make sure of his Euros 2016 place with France, as well as to fulfil his stated aim of playing Champions League football.
Ashley will also do everything he can to cash in on whatever he can get on both Cisse and Tiote before the striker goes into the final year of his contract, while Tiote is a rapidly depreciating asset and seemingly finding trouble far too easily both on and off the pitch. The fact that this pair and Sissoko are also three of the top earners will be an added bonus for the club owner if he can get them out of the door, as he has done with both Mapou and Santon (initial loan) in the last month.
Accepting that this trio of players could well go in the summer, then Newcastle would be very much relying on the following players to make up the midfield and attacking positions, each player listed with the number of matches they have started in the Premier League in their careers, with the number of goals in brackets.
1 Start (0 Goals) Siem de Jong
0 Starts (1 Goal) Rolando Aarons
15 Starts (2 Goals) Sammy Ameobi
14 Starts (1 Goal) Remy Cabella
7 Starts (0 Goals) Emmanuel Riviere
15 Starts (5 Goals) Ayoze Perez
1 Start (0 Goals) Adam Armstrong
3 Starts (0 Goals) Mehdi Abeid
30 Starts (2 Goals) Gabriel Obertan
You also have to bear in mind that Obertan’s 30 career starts in the Premier League have come over the space of seven seasons at both Manchester United and Newcastle United.
The other midfield/attacking players likely to still be at Newcastle are Vurnon Anita, Yoan Gouffran and Jack Colback.
The pressure on Colback could be immense with such an inexperienced line-up around him, not great when you factor in that he has already picked up ten yellow cards for Newcastle and still a third of the season to go.
When it comes to Anita and Gouffran, they may have a decent number of Premier League appearances behind them but for me they are nowhere near the standard needed, especially if we are looking for players to help those who are either progressing from the youth ranks and/or only have experience of other leagues.
Whatever signings are made in the summer, it is difficult to imagine many, if any, coming from other Premier League clubs. Jack Colback probably a one-off, having happily already been a Newcastle United supporter and available for no transfer fee last summer. So adding more foreign players from weaker leagues such as Holland, France etc to the likely pool of inexperienced Newcastle players that remain, will leave a lot of questions to be answered.
Newcastle United are already a club without leadership both on and off the pitch. Whilst Saturday was maybe a real extreme, it is only the latest of a long line of matches where when things turn bad there seems to be nobody stepping up and inspiring those around them, especially in the case of Captain Fabricio Coloccini. This current run of only two wins in thirteen matches bears all the hallmarks of the second half of last season and the near relegation the year before that, once the team get into a losing run they find it near impossible to put a halt to it and put a run of unbeaten matches together.
Adding new players from weaker leagues to that kind of scenario makes it so hard for signings to settle and produce, just look at how Remy Cabella was messed about and ridiculous expectations put on him by Pardew and the club before he’d even kicked a ball for Newcastle.
At the back it is a better situation in terms of experience but while the individuals may have a decent number of appearances between them, the stats and performances we watch tell us this is the weakest part of the team. Williamson is poor, Coloccini is a fading force, while Krul has never again regularly reached the heights of the displays in the fifth place season of 2011/12. Janmaat has been a great buy but I still remain unconvinced that Haidara and Dummett are first choice Premier League players. The fact that only Burnley and QPR have conceded more goals this season tells you all you need to know.
Alan Pardew talked much in the summer of this season being a new look Newcastle United, sadly it has been anything but and the signings have shown an unhealthy mixture of generally not being good enough to improve the team and/or proving prone to injury. Perez, Colback and Janmaat have proved to be good buys but the trio not good enough to make up for the selling of key players and failure to invest properly in other positions.
I can see most fans in advance of next season having a lot of ifs if they are being optimistic for our chances, as in ‘If Siem de Jong stays fit, if Remy Cabella shows the form he did in his last few matches, of these new signings hit the ground running…’
The sensible route for Newcastle United would have been for Mike Ashley to certainly do everything he can to keep Cisse and Sissoko this summer to give the team both ability and experience, whilst on balance I think Cheick Tiote should also be persevered with to see if he can bounce back – though no doubt many of you would disagree with retaining the Ivory Coast midfielder.
The bottom line is that you need a solid base of experienced Premier League players to take you from season to season.
However, the erratic running of Newcastle United could come to a head this summer, with the failings of Newcastle’s transfer policy compounded by a ridiculous situation where the manager/head coach has no say at all in who comes or goes.