‘Magpies looking for new blood in the striker department this January’, read one headline in the local press this week.
Another striker? Really? That’s not where I’d look for new blood.
Now how much inside-info that local, or indeed national, press have on the intricacies of Newcastle United’s recruitment strategy can always be scrutinised, of course. However, this isn’t the first time we’ve heard stories of the club prioritising a striker in the next transfer window.
If this is indeed the route the club wants to go down, then this is, for me, way off the mark. There is one position, despite the many bodies that can play there, which Newcastle must prioritise in the next transfer window. We are desperate for a creative central midfielder.
Ok, our striking situation isn’t great. We do have the complementary ‘little and large’, almost old-school partnership, in the form of Mitrovic and Perez. One a target man, the other a crafty number ten with a good finish.
For sure, their attributes complement one another and one thing I am actually looking forward to seeing this season is how this partnership progresses.
Nevertheless, outside of our numbers 45 and 17, we really don’t have adequate strength in depth for the forward position.
Riviere has failed to impress and Cisse…well Papiss Cisse is Papiss Cisse isn’t he? I think you all know what that means!
The one goal Riviere scored for the toon he didn’t mean and if you look out your window now, you’ll probably see Cisse standing offside! I joke of course, but seriously, have you ever known a player as clueless as Papiss. He drives me insane every time he plays.
Ok, so what am I saying? We have two worthy strikers and two who simply don’t cut it. However, I haven’t forgotten about Adam Armstrong. Whilst I have almost an endless list of complaints with the way out football club is run, I think Armstrong’s case provides us with a rare example of good player management.
We all know the lad can play, we’ve all heard about his goalscoring exploits in the reserves. However, putting on for 2, 5 or even 10 minute spells at the end of a Premier League game is doing the kid no favours. Loaning him out to Coventry, where he plays every week scoring goals, has been an excellent decision.
Adam’s loan deal ends in January and he’ll be a better player for the experience. I’m not saying he will be able to hold down a place in the Newcastle side but from the form he’s displayed and the burning desire the Geordie youngster has to succeed for his club, I’d have him on as a sub over Cisse every time!
So come January, what I would say, is that the shape of our striking department will be a lot healthier than that of our central midfield. Before I go on, I will acknowledge the fact that we have a shed load of midfielders.
First off we have our numerous number 10s. I’m talking de Jong, Moussa Sissoko and Wijnaldum. However, McClaren uses Gini and Moussa out wide, whereby they rarely take up the position of a deep lying, creative central midfielder. And when de Jong does get a run out, it’s usually in place of one of the front two.
In terms of regulars in the two central midfield slots, in Steve’s 442 formation, we usually use any two of Colback, Anita and Tiote. All three are negative. Too negative in fact.
Ok, there’s an argument for playing two defensive midfielders when you have two upfront and two ‘wingers’ who traditionally don’t track back too well, yet when we do play two of three aforementioned centre mids they don’t exactly shut teams out do they?!
Think of the Bournemouth match. How the hell did we ever take 3 points? We have been both atrocious and brilliant at times this season, that game last weekend though was the most frustrating. Bournemouth’s midfield dominated ours. They were so much more up for it. Our pressing was at times non-existent. Tiote was terrible. Who else gets close to having heart palpitations when he dawdles on the ball at the edge of our 18 yard box?
Personally, I think Cisse and Tiote epitomise deadwood at this football club. They have both had spells where they’ve actually been really good. I’m criticising them but hey, credit where credit’s due! However, this was actually a long time ago when you think about it. Cisse has never failed to hit his first season heights and Tiote is simply a liability.
Tiote, Anita and Colback are there to break up play in the side. Sometimes they don’t even do that well. I’d actually like two new centre mids, one defensive and one who can create. But hey, this is Newcastle we’re talking about isn’t it?
So to be realistic, what I’m really hoping for is the introduction of a creative midfielder to play alongside one of these three. Of course, you could say well play Gini or Sissoko in that role and someone else on the wings.
Problem is, our wingers: Thauvin, Obertan, Gouffran and Aarons, aren’t really good enough, except young Rolando who is usually injured! Plus, I’m not sure Gini and Sissoko really fit the mould as a player to put their foot on the ball, dictate the play and make that killer pass. Essentially, I’m asking for a Yohan Cabaye.
Let’s look forward though and not back. We have a busy winter period and then it’s on to January and the second half of the season. I feel we’d be in such a better position if we could introduce a creative central midfielder who could start dictating games. Certainly, that’s what I think is more important than another striker.
So there you have it, my Christmas wish. Now to find a fatman who can make it happen…
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