Let’s put aside the fact that our owner is systematically dismantling the club, by a process of asset stripping, profit maximising and lack of investment for a while, and talk about something too often forgotten about Newcastle United, it used to be a football club, and the investment required to give it a chance again.
As even a person with the most rudimentary understanding of the beautiful game will tell you, a key ingredient to a football club is a football team, without one there doesn’t seem much point to there being a football club, well…..does Newcastle still have a team?
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“What a stupid question” some of you are probably thinking right now, “of course it does”, ok, let’s start at the front and work backwards. I will add conservative amounts of investment requirement in today’s market to bring us up to the standard required for moderate league success, and the ability to compete in the domestic cups, our only real chance of silverware.
We have four senior strikers in the squad; Remy isn’t ours, De Jong isn’t ours, Shola won’t be ours in 3 months time and Cisse has been offered to every pub team in the world for 25p and a pickled egg. To say this area requires heavy investment is tantamount to pointing out that southerners have had it a little damp recently, and I firmly believe you would have to be as mad as a badger on a unicycle, and as deluded as a scouser to think that this investment will be forthcoming the summer. So in essence, we have no strikers unless you count converting wide players like Ben Arfa and Gouffran and giving them a striker’s cap. Investment required – £25m – £35m
Our midfield is well stocked with bodies, just taking into account the ones who have even a sniff of being first team “regulars” we have Tiote, Sissoko, Anita, Ben Arfa, Gouffran and …..well, that’s it really.
The remaining bodies of Obertan, Marveaux, Gosling, Sammy Ameobi and the on loan Gutierrez are all clearly surplus to requirements and I have heard a swell of fans who would make the same claims about Ben Arfa and Anita.
When you consider that when Gouffran was bought we all kind of knew he was a bit average and Sissoko has failed to live up to his early promise, despite being extremely workmanlike in his approach, we really only have Tiote who is good enough. To discuss Tiote a little further, when he is on top of his game there is no doubt that he can be a dominating force against most if not all opponents, but these days are few and far between these days. Mostly we see Tiote as being a tackle away from a card, a card away from a dismissal, and being the Premier League’s worst shot since Arsenal’s John Jensen (who was also famous for his ONE thunderbolt goal). Suddenly midfield doesn’t look so rosy. Investment required – £25m
The case for defence has always been fraught with problems at Newcastle, long before our current benevolent owner and his cheerleader of a manager arrived, in my memory the only two defenders I would class as consistently solid I have seen in a black and white shirt are Brian “Killer” Kilcline and the ever injured Jonathan Woodgate, no doubt we have endured some calamities at the back end of the team. Honestly, apart from his dodgy opening season, I don’t think that captain Colo is a million miles away from being a true great, I would say he gets it right 75% of the time. In Debuchy we have a similar situation, he makes the odd late tackle and didn’t start well but in recent times he has been just about as good as any right back I have seen in a Toon shirt.
Looking over the rest of our defensive unit it is a case of quality, mismanagement and a confusion. Mapou Yanga M’biwa was the captain of his club and a full French international when he arrived, surely he deserves a chance to settle regularly into the team (as Colo was given) ahead of the admittedly on form but desperately limited Williamson and the all muscle and no brain Taylor? I cannot for the life of me figure out why MYM is not playing regularly, he isn’t being kept out by better players (far from it), and we have nothing to play for, so now surely is the time more than any other that he needs a run to settle him into the side. Haidara has potential, and Santon needs to drink his morning coffee, because he looks like he is playing whilst still attached to his pillow at the moment. Investment required – £10m
Our first choice goalkeeper is very good, Tim Krul is prone to the occasional bad match (like the one he just had), but overall we cannot complain. Our back-up to Tim is far from confidence inspiring, but at least he’s happy on the bench and will never push for the number one jersey despite the odd sound bite from Big Mike’s cheerleader. Investment required – £4m
So onto the manager and his coaching staff; Pardew handles substitutions with the tactical nous of a 4 year old, he has literally no idea how to change a game and this is the first Newcastle manager since Gullit that I can say that about. A statement was made the other day that every player we have signed has improved, I bring forward the case for the prosecution as Hatem Ben Arfa, Papiss Demba Cisse and Mapou Yanga M’biwa. Also, as astutely pointed out by a fan in comments the other day, if Obertan has improved since we signed him then it begs the question as to why he was signed in the first place.
Ben Arfa was the enfant terrible of French football, throughout his career there had always been major question marks about his temperament and attitude but his talent was always assured, I think everyone remembers the cup goal against Bolton with some joy, and I wonder whatever happened to that player.
The Ben Arfa we see today is heavy, slow, runs up blind alleys and his shooting is somewhat wayward to say the least. Likewise Cisse WAS a one goal every two games player throughout his career until our coaching team got their hands on him, he arrived with a bang of natural goal scoring ability that drew comparisons with goal king Cole, but our crack team of coaches soon had him playing with his back to goal, dropping deeper and running the channels, none of which come naturally to him as a true poacher. I have already written about Yanga M’biwa and I can only think that he was caught in a compromising position with a lady friend of a member of the club’s hierarchy.
So we have a total required investment of between £64 and 74m, does anyone believe that we will invest anywhere near this? Are people more likely to believe that we will cash in on one or all of Krul, Debuchy, Tiote, Ben Arfa and Cisse? Are people more likely to believe that we will be filled with hot air from the cheerleader between now and then about our “big summer”, when a total investment of around £25m will be made on three players and we will be told that it is time for our young players to “step up to the plate” (again)? Are people more likely to believe that the owner will trouser the TV contract money (again), and once more we will be left to listen to the excuses from someone who has no actual power to do anything?
What next then?
Relegation, certainly a distinct possibility and not even to be ruled out THIS year, maybe another January panic buy if things look grim perhaps?
Certainly I fail to see any positive from the current situation; 5 consecutive home defeats, 11 goals conceded in three games without reply and performances so poor they make the opening day defeat at Man City seem like a happy memory.
So where do we go from here? Answers on a postcard.