Rumours started to gather pace from various outlets that there had been bids from the likes of Arsenal, Manchester United and Tottenham for star man Yohan Cabaye. At this point panic began to set in, what would we do without our most creative outlet? Do we have time to replace him? What would this mean for the rest of the squad?
When the clocked ticked to eleven and there had been nothing more concrete from anyone, a collective sigh of relief was had by Newcastle fans everywhere. The previous hours of frustration at getting no one over the line felt silly and I was ashamed for my greed, we’d kept the squad together.
If you had said after we trudged off against Everton on the last day of last season that ALL of Tiote, Cisse, Cabaye, Ben Arfa, Colocinni and Ba would still be at the club, most football fans would have laughed at you. We did it though. We kept a squad full of talent intact, it may be a little bit light around the edges but the large quantities of quality are still there.
Defence is an area that worries many fans, especially after the serious injury suffered by Ryan Taylor, but there is cover. We have the fantastic starting centre half partnership of Coloccini and Steven Taylor with Santon and Simpson looking first choice at full back. Perch has looked assured no matter where he has played in recent months and if he keeps fit can fill in at full back and centre back. James Tavernier didn’t cover himself in glory against the speedy Epstein for Atromitos but is highly rated by the coaching staff and of the staff at the clubs he’s been on loan. If he is covered by the likes of Jonas and Tiote from midfield we seem to have an adequate full back there.
Also, not forgetting that young Tavernier can play at centre back. Another centre-back option is obviously Mike Williamson who did a steady job following the Taylor injury last season. Full back cover can also be provided by Jonas, the winger played there in pre-season and has done for the national team so if needs be he could be dropped back to left or right back. Finally there is young players like Shane Ferguson, who has impressed when playing for the first team in the past and for Northern Ireland. His ability to play at left back could be invaluable in future months.
The other area of concern for many fans is in attack, which is understandable. After the Senegalese duo of Ba and Cisse the next best option is the injury prone Shola Ameobi. There are options in that department as well though. Shola shouldn’t be out for much longer and will provide good back up to the Dembas and also his younger brother Sammy has been known to play upfront when not on the left wing. Obertan played in a centre forward role in pre-season so could also provide cover to the front two if needs be. Then there’s the likes of Vuckic, Amalfitano, Ben Arfa who like to play off a centre forward, so if an injury happens we can always go to one up front with a man just off. Not great but when you look below the surface there are options available.
At this point I can’t neglect to mention the African Cup of Nations. As a consequence of that competition we will lose Cheick Tiote, or Ba and Cisse. Most people, due to the lack of cover, seem to want Ivory Coast to qualify and Tiote be off to South Africa, I am in this boat. By October 13th we will have found out which one has qualified and if it is Senegal we will look more than a little short up front. However, the tournament doesn’t start till the 19th of January. That gives us a large part of January to sign a striker if needs be, October 13th to January 19th to sort out some form of replacement. So there is time to get the replacements in.
January brings other positives, players such as Douglas will have six months left on their contract and their clubs will be desperate to cash in on them rather than lose them for nothing, a situation we can take advantage of. Lille may have struggled and Debuchy will be ready to jump ship. We don’t know for sure but what we do know is we don’t have to get through our whole season with the squad we currently have.
I’m not trying to say the squad is perfect. When you sit back though and take a look at the versatility and full squad list, we do have options available. We have to get through four months, we may need a bit of luck with injuries but we can do it. We have a good team and we can compete. Losing Ryan Taylor was a massive blow and the squad isn’t the biggest but as I said we kept the squad together, we have a forward three enough to scare any defence, a midfield three full of grit, determination but creativity at the same time, a goalkeeper who was only beaten on clean sheets by Joe Hart and a centre half pairing that look to complement each other.
To back all this up there are players who can play several positions. It Isn’t all doom and gloom, we have been through worse than this and we will go through worse again, if we get behind the team and they perform how we know they can, who knows what we can do.