Steve McClaren’s latest comments suggest that those inside the club just don’t see the problems at left-back for Newcastle, or indeed the weaknesses in the defence overall.
Ever since promotion in 2009/10 Newcastle United’s defending has been woeful, with only maybe the first half of the 2011/12 season the token exception.
Year after year Newcastle concede more goals than pretty much every other team, last season only rock bottom QPR conceded more, this season only Norwich and the mackems have conceded more than United’s 44 goals – with even the absolutely useless Aston Villa leaking four less goals.
Transfer window after transfer window Newcastle fail to strengthen the defence, easily the poor relation compared to the cash spent on midfield and attack.
Chancel Mbemba was a rare exception and without him this season you dread to think just how much worse it could have been.
Central defence is a real weakness with no credible partner at the club for Mbemba and with confirmation yesterday that he is due to see specialists in both London and Belgium about the injury picked up at Everton, initial reports of over a month out already appear very optimistic.
However, left-back has arguably been Newcastle’s biggest weakness, not just this season but for pretty much all the five years since Jose Enrique departed to win things with Liverpool…
The Spaniard had a couple of very good seasons in partnership with Jonas Gutierrez on the left-hand side and apart from Davide Santon flattering to deceive for a brief period and Ryan Taylor filling in ok on a very temporary basis, left-back has been a disaster area.
Steve McClaren has now admitted that Newcastle tried to bring in five or six different left-backs right at the end of the transfer window but failed with them all.
Bizarrely, it was Jose Enrique who was the last and most publicised of those, with a deadline day deal falling down despite Liverpool being happy to pay him off and let him go for nothing.
However, it was reported that Newcastle hadn’t offered him a long enough contract with only a deal until the end of this season, something which Jose Enrique wouldn’t accept.
The Spaniard doesn’t look anywhere near the player he was when at Newcastle but on the other hand it is hard to see him looking any worse than the likes of Massadio Haidara and Paul Dummett even if they were fit.
Which gets to the heart of the problem, Steve McClaren admits that they were only offering a potential left-back a short-term deal to cover for the likes of Dummett and Haidara.
I’m sorry but no wonder Newcastle are in such a desperate position if McClaren and others at the club don’t see that those two are nowhere near good enough for the Premier League.
Any number of promising full-backs are being picked up by Premier League clubs from the lower leagues, with Sam Byram the latest, the right-back/right-midfielder joining West Ham from Leeds despite having been linked with Newcastle for years.
Joe Gomez joined Liverpool from Charlton after also being heavily linked with Newcastle, Aaron Cresswell went from Ipswich to West Ham, Kieran Trippier moved from Burnley to Tottenham last summer and so on.
Newcastle United appear to always think they can muddle through in defence and money continues to be spent on ‘sexier’ wingers, midfielders and strikers who are seen as having more chance of an increase in their resale value.
Newcastle could well pay the price this season for their blinkered transfer ‘strategy’, if they couldn’t even attract Jose ‘never going to get another game at Liverpool’ Enrique then it shows how little they were prepared to pay to try and improve that left-back/defensive situation…unlike the money that continued to be spent on wingers/midfield.
I am not writing him off yet of course but I honestly can’t see Henri Saivet being a success in the Premier League and we have any number of players to play in midfield who aren’t any worse than him on what we’ve seen so far – so why not instead spend that £5m we paid for him on a bright up and coming left-back from the Championship who would have instantly improved our defence and the team overall?
“It certainly wasn’t through a lack of effort and wanting – going out there and seeing suitability, not being available.
But believe you me, in terms of centre-back we had four (Coloccini, Mbemba, Lascelles, Taylor), priorities were elsewhere.
We were always looking for a left-back, as cover, short-term – believe you me, I think five or six were tried at the weekend but for various reasons they didn’t work out for us.
“Paul Dummett had trained for five or six days, Massadio Haidara could possibly be right for Stoke (away 2 March).
“We will have that 18 day break to get players back into the squad – it wasn’t the case of thinking we would get three injuries in one game – that is crazy.”