As we approach the January transfer window and Newcastle United remain in the relegation zone heading into 2016, many fans will be wondering what the club intend to do about it and how/if they are preparing to strengthen the squad in the upcoming month.
Will the football board stick to the well-known blueprint previously used to identify targets, or has the disastrous start to the season led to the manager and the board having second thoughts and therefore attempt to target players the team actually need. In order to lead to some improvement in the team to climb out of the perilous position they currently find themselves in, yet again under the Mike Ashley regime?
When Steve McClaren and his coaching staff joined the club in the summer, there was apparently an identity and a focus from the coaching team on a possession based game plan that allowed the team to control the game by using a progressive passing game that focused on protecting the ball and building up play.
Steve McClaren has since admitted that the club does not currently have the players suited to this style of play and the players at his disposal are more suited to a counter attacking approach. This has been in evidence in the little success that we have enjoyed this season so far and the results we have gained against the so called bigger teams. Where Newcastle have been allowed to sit and defend and then attack on the counter attack, mainly through Sissoko and Wijnaldum, when given the opportunity.
However, for Newcastle to progress in the premier league and climb up the table, it is obvious to all that the team need to be able to play both types of football to gather as many wins as possible. Building a team that can control a game of football and dominate possession does of course take time and the right type of players, this is where Newcastle could do themselves a huge favour in January and start targeting players who are suited to this style, if this is indeed the game plan that the manager/head coach and his staff are committed to playing.
In my opinion, the way a team control a game of football is dictated by the players you have in midfield and in particular the central areas of midfield. Newcastle often set up in a 4231 formation under McClaren, with two of either Colback, Anita or Tiote sitting in front of the defence in the double pivot role that is crucial in dictating the way the team plays.
This is where the problem is in my opinion as although all three are good solid midfield players who graft, are fully committed, get around the pitch and make a challenge, none of the three are able to dictate the tempo of the game and change the way Newcastle play as a team in the way that Cabaye did in previous years for example.
If Newcastle are committed to playing this formation and the eventual football philosophy is to control games, then it must be done with one other midfield player who we currently don’t have at the club and one of the three players mentioned above playing alongside him.
Despite the fact we are unable to control possession in the midfield when operating with two of the above mentioned, we also simply give away far too many fouls in dangerous areas of the pitch and pick up far too many cards to make life comfortable when any two of the three are playing together. The team is constantly on the result deciding tightrope of going down to ten men, especially when you also have captain Coloccini and Janmaat running around giving away reckless fouls and picking up needless bookings.
With this in mind I believe Newcastle should look to change their transfer market approach in January and make a serious offer for Michael Carrick to join the club, or if unavailable in this window make a huge push to sign him now for next summer when his contract expires at Manchester United.
Carrick is a player who changes the way a team plays through his reading of the game, range of passing and the control he can give a team in the middle of the park. There are a select group of players in world football such as Pirlo, Alonso and Busquets to name a few, who can offer this at the highest level but not many others that I can currently think of running around in the premier league.
Michael Carrick not only provides the control and the range of passing Newcastle desperately need but he also provides a coolness and discipline to a team through his reading of the game. Rio Ferdinand once spoke of former team-mate Carrick and mentioned that he never made too many tackles as his reading of the game and his ability to intercept a pass was so strong, he always stayed on his feet and positioned himself to prevent trouble before it happened. This in itself would reduce the number of fouls we give away in areas that can hurt the team and bring down the card count for each fixture.
Carrick’s vision and ability to read the game is without comparison in the premier league. It is also his ability to assist and bring others into the game that makes him so valuable. With Carrick sitting in midfield he can bring players into attack, his choice and range of passing means he rarely gives the ball away, this allows the team to build from the back which is exactly the vision that Steve McClaren and his coaching team have for Newcastle United.
Michael Carrick is admittedly the wrong side of 30 by a good few years but he also comes across as the ultimate professional who has won trophies and enjoyed success for Manchester United under Alex Ferguson. He also hails from the North East and may be tempted by the opportunity to finish his career at his hometown club whom he supported as a boy, so Carrick is not an unrealistic pie in the sky transfer target.
In fact many Newcastle fans believe that Carrick should have spent the last ten years at Newcastle. When he was a young midfielder at West Ham United the then Newcastle chairman Freddie Shepherd was so convinced that Carrick would sign for no other club than his hometown club as his contract ran down, that he delayed making an offer so that he would be able to get him on a free transfer. Until of course he signed for Spurs for £3.5m, who then later sold him to Manchester United for £18.6m.
Of course for this transfer to go ahead, the people in power at St James Park would need some convincing. After previously having their fingers burnt on expensive over the hill signings they are in no rush to go down this path again.
The Ashley regime inherited an ageing Michael Owen who was on the decline as a striker and unable to save Newcastle from relegation despite receiving one of the highest wages in the league. This was then followed by Geremi and Mark Viduka who were literally on their last legs, yet both were brought in by Sam Allardyce for one final pay day that didn’t pay off. Apparently Chris Hughton had a difficult job justifying the signing and salary of Sol Campbell to the then board, this signing was accepted yet Campbell was unable to justify his wage.
So even if Steve McClaren is a big fan of Carrick’s and is pushing a move for the player, you can understand the reluctance from the rest of the footballing board due to previous mistakes in the past. The football board will of course consider the current blueprint and there will be far too many crosses against his name. Is he over 26 and therefore offers no re-sale value? Yes. Will he be expensive? The club will probably have to make him the club’s highest earner so yes. The two criteria just mentioned will certainly sit uncomfortably with the football board and they will believe they can get a similar type player from France or Holland who will tick the boxes they require.
They may have done that once in the past with Cabaye, although Carrick in my opinion is a different and superior player, what are the chances of doing it again? The question the board should be asking instead: Is he what the team needs and the manager/head coach wants? I believe the answer would be most definitely a yes on both points.
There is something about Carrick that seems different to other players who are coming to the end of their career, like Teddy Sheringham or John Terry he has never been reliant on pace. He is more than just a central midfield player as he actually dictates how a team plays. Carrick is also a Geordie that could be welcomed home by the fans at a desperately depressing time, when the fans are screaming out for a British identity and some local affinity. Then there is the fact that despite his age he is a unique type of footballer that is extremely difficult to find or sign through scouting networks and academies.
As a club Newcastle should simply forget about any negative reasoning associated with the transfer and jump at the chance that a player of this ilk may be tempted through local identity to join the club in the first place.
It may sound old-fashioned but how about the footballing board simply push the boat out to make it happen and make every possible effort to provide the manager/head coach with a player he needs and wants, who will actually improve the current first eleven.
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