Since the opening of the transfer window, there have been more exits from St.James’ Park than arrivals. I have read over the past few days that selling these so called fringe players is a positive step by the club, illustrating a move of ambition to improve the overall playing quality existing in the ranks at St.James’.
Regarding the likes of Alan Smith (no future left at the club), Peter Lovenkrands (most effective days behind him) and Leon Best (surplus to requirements), I agree that the notion of selling these types of players can in fact be seen as a positive by the club. The case of Danny Guthrie is different in my opinion though. Guthrie has been bracketed into this group of players which I find to be grossly unfair and untrue.
Guthrie was a player who undoubtedly had ability. Last season, and in the ones before that, Guthrie demonstrated his ability from the centre of midfield to pass the ball well, engage in tackles and provide a goal threat , illustrated by strikes against Blackburn (League Cup) and Fulham last season. Both of which were shots from distance, made with both right and left foot respectively, yet another attribute to Guthrie’s game. Guthrie is a player who can be described as having guile in midfield – a wonderful balance, control and technique with the courage to get on the ball and play. Surely it is a shame to lose a player who had undoubted talent and Premier League experience/pedigree as opposed to a positive?
Another element as to why the selling of Guthrie is not a positive is that Newcastle have let a player of good age/potential leave. Guthrie was only 25, matching the perceived Mike Ashley age-related criteria of a suitable player for the squad. A player of his age has his best years ahead of him and so keeping Guthrie would only have been a benefit, rather than a drag on the overall quality of the squad. Furthermore, Guthrie was a British talent and these are becoming rarer in modern day football, with the new 25 man squad rule of which 9 must be ‘home-grown’ implemented, keeping Guthrie would have been a progressive measure by the club.
As well as this, Guthrie proved himself an able deputy last season, coming into the team on numerous occasions for Tiote. Notable contributions to victories over Stoke away, Everton at home, West Brom away and the draw at Old Trafford, all in Tiote’s absence, proving that Guthrie was a more than able replacement. For example, tight 1-0 victories over both QPR and Norwich at St.James’ stick out as games where Guthrie was the standout performer in midfield, it was performances and victories like this that meant Newcastle remained in the hunt for a Champions League place right up until the final day. Newcastle will miss this next season when the first choice midfield pairing of Tiote/Cabaye is inevitably interrupted by injuries, suspensions etc, and this may even be a detriment to Newcastle’s ability to grind out results and sustain a challenge on two fronts next season.
More than this though I feel that there is an argument that Guthrie could and maybe should have indeed been a first team player for Newcastle next season. Newcastle’s most effective formation last year proved to be the 4-3-3 used in the impressive six game winning run at the ‘business end’ of last term. Therefore it is likely that this is the formation Newcastle will adopt for the forthcoming campaign.
With this in mind, for a formation that requires three midfielders, the fact that Guthrie has been allowed to leave could prove a major concern in the sense that he was without doubt, along with Tiote and Cabaye, one of the three best midfielders at the club last season. Therefore, playing the three of them would have been a force, as proved in the 2-0 victory over Liverpool last season when the three performed magnificently in this system to completely outplay a Liverpool midfield containing Steven Gerrard. Sadly though, this will not be seen again and this is a shame as these three players were perfectly suited to the formation, so selling one of the main contributors to this success is hardly a positive.
Newcastle also lost a player of worthy ability, potential and use for FREE. This is another point that can only be seen as a negative. Guthrie was a loyal player, who stuck with Newcastle after their relegation but Pardew’s laissez-faire attitude concerning the issue however, resulted in him stating that, “If Danny Guthrie wants First team football he should go”.
Finally, with Newcastle in the Europa League next season and the African Cup of Nations once more taking place, Guthrie’s departure looks more and more like a mistake. There is an immense amount of importance placed on the squad of teams competing on more than one front these days and so keeping Guthrie would have been a wise move. The concept of First team football can also be said to be somewhat blurred in the modern game due to squad rotation and an increase in the amount of matches played. Therefore Guthrie would have been a first team player next season and so his departure, unlike the others who have left this summer, could prove costly to Newcastle.