I don’t expect us to be on the fringes of the Champions League battle again this season. It was great being up there but to stay in that pack generally requires a degree of first team strengthening every summer.
As things stand I think somewhere in the region of 8th will represent a decent league season just as long as step it up a bit in one of the cups. That would represent progress – consolidating our position in the top half of the league, improving our cup performances and adding another year of experience and development to what is a young, talented squad.
Making that great leap forward into the Champions League places would be incredible, of course, but at the end of the day it’s just a league position and a load of money. Nice things to have, but would I swap it for winning one of the three cups we’ll be playing in? No chance!
I watched that magical night at the Olympic stadium last weekend, when Jessica Ennis, Greg Rutherford and Mo Farah made everyone watching feel like they were part of something special. The euphoria was spine-tingling. To be in a stadium watching Newcastle win a trophy would be like taking that feeling and multiplying it by 100.
For any of the above to happen I think the midfield axis of Cabaye and Tiote is crucial once again. As a pair they have the ability to outplay opponents and control games. Individually they’re great players but as a pair they’re an awesome sight. They make the team tick and they bear comparison with any midfield duo in the country.
In addition I think this is a big year for Hatem Ben Arfa. In the second half of last season he really started to flourish and it appeared that Pardew had nurtured him superbly, coaxing a level of performance and consistency from him that we were beginning to think we’d never see. If he can carry that into the new season, bearing in mind he has once again missed a lot of pre-season games and training, then he will be a constant attacking threat played anywhere across the pitch in the final third.
Assuming the squad is fully fit, which it most probably won’t be, I’d like to see us attack Spurs next weekend with the 4-3-3 line-up that worked so well towards the end of last season. That would be Krul, Simpson, Santon, Tiote, S Taylor, Coloccini, Gutierrez, Cabaye, Cissé, Ben Arfa, Ba.
As for transfers, if Debuchy is available for what we value him at, then he’ll join us. IfLilledemand more money we’ll walk away. IfLilledecide before the end of August that they’d like the money after all then we get our man. I suspect the same was true of the proposed deal for Andy Carroll.
It’s a patient, diligent approach that doesn’t leave the club desperately flinging money around and makes it clear that we aren’t going to play that game. It’s easy to imagine that under our previous regime we’d reach this stage of the summer and desperation to make a signing would have us on the verge of upping our offer to £15m for a journeyman striker at Wolves who had been relegated from the Premier League in two of the last three seasons. .
Meanwhile I remain quite calm about the prospect of losing any of our star men. We aren’t a selling club any more than 99% of the rest of the country – if an absurd offer comes in that is too good to turn down then we may well lose Tiote for £30m or Krul for £20m. If that happens then I have faith that the money will be well spent on buying replacements.
I don’t want to lose any of our first team squad, nor do I think we will. We’re in Europe, we have a good team spirit and our players are tied to nice long contracts. It’d take a downright ridiculous offer to make us consider selling. And while Kenny Dalglish remains unemployed it’s unlikely that any manager is going to do such a thing in the current climate.
So it’s time to put my neck on the line. I’m going to boldly predict that we’ll finish 8th this season.AND we’re going to reach a cup final. Nurse! It’s time for my medication…