The 2012/13 season kicks off this weekend and I couldn’t be more excited. I am going into this season with an open mind and without any real expectations as I have been weighed down by expectations in the past and the main thing I took from our season in the Championship was that I actually learned to love the game again.
I stopped getting angry when we lost and learned to accept that we had to start again from the bottom so I might as well enjoy it. Because of that, the last three years have been fantastic and all I ask this season is that the team continues to fight for each other, for us, for Alan, and for every point. If they do that, I’ll be happy.
Newcastle United should be playing European football so a successful season in my eyes would be qualifying for Europe again. I’d love to win a trophy, or to reach the Champions League, but finishing in the top 6 again is very important. It might sound silly after my previous comments, but I would like to see Pardew focus on the league and domestic cups this year and play fringe players in Europe.
This is because I do not think we have the squad to attack all four and I do not want us to spread ourselves too thin. Couple of new recruits this season and a couple more next season, coupled with a season of European experience for the ‘kids’, and I think we’ll be ready. I think we would benefit from one more year of steady progression before we really start going for the quadruple.
The three players that I see as the most important to Newcastle United this season are Tim Krul, Hatem Ben Arfa and Papiss Demba Cisse. Krul ended last season as one of the best goalkeepers in the league and it will be vital that he carries that form into 2012/13. I haven’t been impressed with what I’ve seen from Elliot so far and Harper isn’t the player he used to be, so we’ll be relying heavily on our new (and deserved) number one. I’m also excited to see Cisse in action again this season as goals win games and our new number 9 seems to score without trying.
I thought that the 4-3-3 system worked last season but Pardew appears to have assured Ba that he will employ more of a central role this year so it wouldn’t surprise me to see Cisse take his turn on the left. After all, we know he can score from there….
Hatem Ben Arfa can unlock doors that other players can’t, his goals against Bolton and Blackburn last season were top class and he became more and more consistent as he grew into the season. I expect big things from Hatem this year, not the league title, but big things.
I would love to see Newcastle win a major trophy, especially as they haven’t in my lifetime, but I can’t help thinking that we’ve waited this long, what’s a little longer? Champions League qualification on a regular basis would bring an annual cash injection that would allow us to grow at a much greater speed than we are able to currently, and would hopefully go a long way to establishing ourselves as the ‘big club’ that we’re always known we can be. So, whilst I would love to see Coloccini lift something a little more glamorous than the Trofeu Internacional Futebol Da Guadiana, I don’t mind waiting another season or two whilst we continue to grow in other areas.
I’ve been disappointed with Newcastle’s transfer activity this summer as we have not signed a single player so far that I can see threatening the first team this season. Good, Amalfitano and Bigirimana all look like decent enough players but none of them are first team ready and that’s what we need. We’ve been linked with an array of players (Debuchy, Carroll, Douglas, Yanga-Mbiwa, Anita, Toivonen, Pieters, Cissokho, Van Der Wiel, Remy…) but they have all failed to materialise.
I worry that Newcastle are so busy trying to find a bargain that they’re neglecting that fact that we actually need three or four of these players if we’re to have a real chance of building on last year. I realise that we don’t want to get ripped off but we don’t even seem to want to pay market value at the moment. It’s definitely a concern as injuries to four or five of our biggest names and we’ll struggle.
I don’t think we’ll sell anyone as nobody really seems to want out, but even if we did lose one or two I think we’ll be ok in the long term. We sold Andy Carroll for £35m and signed Ben Arfa, Ba and Cisse for approximately £15m combined. Selling players is not my concern at the moment… it’s how long we have to wait for a replacement. It took a year to replace Carroll with Cisse, and we’re still waiting on the centre back we desperately needed in January…