So, another January on its way out and another FA Cup run chucked away early doors by Newcastle United.
Saturday’s defeat away at Oxford prompted some important questions in my mind.
Which competition should we have been prioritising this season?
That is a simple one, we MUST get out of the Championship.
If fans remember every grumble and every rant at how bad the opposition and officiating has been in most games this season, then this is the overriding reason why next season we MUST be playing Premier League football.
WE have had it fairly easy this season against mediocre teams and incompetent referees and yet still we haven’t torn the league apart.
The game away at QPR is a case in point, when the team turns up we can beat the rubbish that’s on offer in this division. Er, so what? What exactly does that prove? Big fish/small pond springs to mind. It is all well and good winning matches, but if it’s not in the top league…
If we had been comfortable in the Premier League without the fear of relegation and a good squad at our disposal (see next question) then by all means target a cup run, but at present, the second we come up against a decent Premier League side, that would be us out. Don’t believe me? We couldn’t beat an under strength Hull City with a strong side and we got well beaten by Oxford with a rotated squad.
Is this Newcastle ‘squad’ good enough?
It depends on what for?
If you’re talking about getting out of the Championship, then of course it is. It’s doing just that as we speak without tearing up any trees.
If it’s to survive in the Premiership next season, then you must be joking. We have a select few players who would be able to do a job next season – some excelling more than others, but on the whole not a chance. The vast majority of this squad will not make the grade next year and those who dropped down with us last season are STILL poor.
Should the club have been putting more effort into new signings this transfer window?
Without being privy to what has (or hasn’t) been going on behind the scenes, it’s easy to answer based on what I’ve already said in the first two questions. This squad is highly likely to go up, maybe not as champions, but (barring injuries/suspensions) it will have more than enough to keep ahead of the play-off pack. That’s not to say a bit of help wouldn’t be welcome.
There’s talk of Andros Townsend being loan swapped with Chancel Mbemba, which would be a good deal, but only for next season as Andros plays in Matt Ritchie’s position and there’s no need to disrupt that part of the side.
It’s easy to get frustrated/annoyed at the lack of transfer business but this is really where we as fans need to be calm. It’s not as easy to sign players in this window that are of sufficient quality to be good enough next year.
What would be the point of signing someone who will do a job for the rest of this season but won’t be good enough next year in the Premier League?
Fans need to realise this as it’s pointless coming out with criticism and personal jibes aimed at the manager, MD and owner when we don’t know what has been going on behind the scenes.
We know what Mike Ashley has been like throughout the history of his ownership of Newcastle United but since last summer he hasn’t done anything wrong, unless the rumoured reports of transfer interference are true. Bitchy name calling should be left out of it, for if the transfer policy has reverted back to what it was pre-Benitez, the man would have walked by now.
Is the squad rotation policy of Rafa Benitez a help or a hindrance?
There is no doubting the need for freshening up the squad during a robust Championship campaign but often this season it has been a hindrance for me.
The solutions to our malaise in some games is purely a selection problem and by that I mean certain people keep getting selected when the form/evidence is that they are consistently not good enough and cost goals/games.
If a Jonjo Shelvey II isn’t to be found in the remaining hours of the window to provide cover, then the formation needs to change if ever he is absent, as allowing Jack Colback to operate in the midfield is an accident waiting to happen. I’m not Mo Diame’s biggest fan, but results have always been good when he’s played, despite his lack of movement, and his return from ACON will provide a much-needed body.
Defensively we are pretty good whenever DeAndre Yedlin is played at right back ahead of Vurnon Anita and Paul Dummett is a decent left back at this level but often struggles with the attacking side of things. I do believe we are good enough with the status quo in the back four, provided the attackers can finish off their chances which in too many games this season hasn’t been the case.
On that note, I hear fans saying we need a striker to fill in for Dwight Gayle. I’m in two different camps here. On one hand we have Daryl Murphy who has done well when he’s been called upon and not let us down. On the other hand, we have Aleksandar Mitrovic who has flattered to deceive and at times shown nothing against substandard opposition. Cult hero?
At 22, Shola Ameobi had similar potential but failed to make the grade and I see no difference between the two. Both will score goals, but on the evidence at hand, will give you more duff performances than they are worth. Sorry to the Mitrovic Fan Club, I like a player that unifies fans and I want him to do well but I don’t see it working out and the fact that he gets adulation, and Dwight Gayle is relatively overlooked in comparison, is frankly offensive.
The defeat at Oxford won’t be forgotten, it’s not nice to get knocked out by a lower league side, but it’s the manner of the defeat that frustrates fans.
However, if six points are harvested over the next two home games we will be in a very healthy position to attack the rest of the season and hopefully target the Brighton away fixture with a view to getting promoted as champions, especially with Dwight Gayle, Jonjo Shelvey and the ACON lads all back in harness in the next few weeks.
So no need to panic, recruits or no recruits.
Howay The Lads.