The barren transfer windows that passed Newcastle United by, have helped produce a very strange situation at St James Park.
The normal route is for teams to evolve, with players gradually phased out at one end whilst new recruits are gradually introduced.
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The idea being that new players are eased in amongst a strong core group of players who have played for a number of years.
However, the recent couple of seasons have seen a lot of first team squad players leave in a relatively short space of time: Jonas Gutierrez, Ryan Taylor, Hatem Ben Arfa, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, Davide Santon, Mathieu Debuchy, Yohan Cabaye, Steve Harper, James Perch, Danny Simpson, Xisco(!) and Demba Ba.
The position we have now is one that is heavily weighted in terms of hoping/expecting players to deliver who have very few, if any, matches behind them at Newcastle. Basically there is no solid (reliable) long-term base of players for new recruits to be blended with.
This is a core group of players who I think Steve McClaren will be relying on and who I also believe the Newcastle fans also see as the club standing or falling with (obviously not all automatic first teamers – Lascelles, Darlow, Abeid) – number of NUFC starts in the Premier League before each name:
1 de Jong
The problem we have is that many of the players who have been around any length of time, are amongst the group that many supporters have little, or very much decreased, faith in: Coloccini, Williamson, Taylor, Elliot, Anita, Gouffran, Tiote and Obertan.
The only senior Newcastle players who carry much belief from the fans are Krul, Sissoko and Cisse, yet even those last two have their detractors.
You can also add Cabella (21) and Riviere (15) to those with very few games under their belts in black and white, though only Cabella is a credible contender for the first team once fit again.
The idea of a whole new look team is both enticing and giving cause for concern.
This is where the pre season becomes a big potential problem.
I think most fans would like to see Mitrovic, Mbemba, Wijnaldum, Aarons, de Jong and at least another couple of new signings in their starting eleven – which would equate to seven players who have so far made one Premier League start between them.
In pre season we’ve seen Aarons and Wijnaldum get a couple of hours of play in each, whilst de Jong has looked off the pace and only really sparkled when used as a late sub in the last couple of games against Portland and Sheffield United.
We are going to have a team who will need to ‘learn on the job’ this coming season, no luxury of getting to know each other’s games and preparing as a team in both defence and attack.
The cruel opening fixtures (Southampton, Swansea, Man U and Arsenal) see United up against four of last season’s top eight and the last thing we need is our newly thrown together team coming under instant pressure.
I don’t advocate throwing money at the problem but despite the two headline grabbing signings of Wijnaldum and Mitrovic, Mike Ashley has taken another massive gamble in leaving transfers so late in the day, especially when Mitrovic and Mbemba were going to face visa issues.
Let’s hope the new look Newcastle United will grow together and more signings will arrive imminently, this season is looking like it is going to be a close call and could go either way.
In 12 days time we will get the first indications.