Newcastle United avoided relegation on the final day of last season, then brought in four first team summer signings.
Two months later Newcastle are bottom of the league – why?
I think two major reasons.
Firstly, as Steve McClaren has mentioned the odd time, United have faced a tough set of games to kick off the season. Not bad enough to justify three points from 24 and defeat by Sheffield Wednesday reserves, but certainly a factor you are justified in using.
Secondly, the four new signings joined a relegation standard squad.
United were almost relegated in 2012/13, the second half of the 2013/14 season was definite relegation form, then last season (2014/15) survival was only reached on the final day of the season.
What more evidence do you need?
The four new signings this summer:
Chancel Mbemba – Clearly Newcastle’s best (only?) defender, Daryl Janmaat can be excellent going forward but only adequate in defence – which is a lot more than you can say for the rest of them.
Aleksandar Mitrovic – The evidence of Chelsea and Manchester City suggests that he is a very good signing and so long as he keeps his calm AND gets decent service we have a potential top striker now at the club.
Georginio Wijnaldum – Has only shown flashes so far of his undoubted ability, his assist for Mitrovic’s goal and his own headed one on the opening day of the season, giving us glimpses of hopefully what is to come. Confident that when he finds his feet and United start getting better possession and more flowing open football, he will really blossom.
Florian Thauvin – Jury still out. However, no surprise to see a 22 year old winger who has never played outside his home country and never played for the national team, not producing the goods immediately. He might make it or he might not, but if three of the four signings prove successes then that would be still a very good return.
To blame these four for Newcastle’s struggles is a bit mental.
Those inside the club were in collective denial and kidding themselves that the players/team who looked so poor last season, were simply underachieving.
These opening matches have simply reinforced what we saw last year.
Perez and Janmaat (after a ropey first few matches) have shown once again that they are very good players for Newcastle, whilst Jack Colback continues to run around a lot and looks ok if his more able teammates actually turn up.
Meanwhile, the likes of Coloccini and Krul are still pale imitations of what they were in 2011/12.
Haidara, Obertan, Williamson, Gouffran and Anita have never been good enough and continue to show that.
Papiss Cisse is as frustrating and unreliable as usual, whilst Moussa Sissoko shows minimal interest in what he is being paid tens of thousands of pounds to do.
Siem de Jong is knackered and Steven Taylor struggles to last a week before picking up yet another injury, with Rolando Aarons showing worrying signs that he is made of the same flimsy material as Taylor.
None of this should be news to any of us.
That first half of the 2013/14 season saw Loic Remy and Yohan Cabaye massively disguise the shortcomings of so many teammates, and the dramatic collapse in the second half of that season was a direct result of Cabaye’s departure and Remy not fancying it any more.
Now expecting players such as Mitrovic, Mbemba and the other new signings to carry poor players such as Coloccini, Anita, Haidara and others was a major leap of faith.
Let’s hope this spectacular gamble by Mike Ashley doesn’t end the way that it has started so far this season.
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