Right, the new season is upon us and everyone’s very excited.
Except they aren’t, are they?
If I could attempt to gauge the current general mood it would be that people generally feel better and more confident than last season now we have a new management team in place and some good signings, with a strong undercurrent of ‘same old story’ as the major surgery required to repair the squad has not happened and the defence in particular is a great concern.
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This has been reflected in some shocking pre-season results and overall the mood is not great heading into Southampton.The problem it seems, is the ‘football by numbers; approach taken by the Ashley regime.
It seems all fans know the squad is too lightweight in practice, but in theory I think the powers that be look at the squad and, by heaping a lot of expectation on McLaren, believe it will work.
The Newcastle players can be categorised into five categories as follows:
Group 1 – New, quality, expensive signings: Wijnaldum, Mitrovic, Mbemba
Theory – Mike’s put his money where his mouth is, these guys will sort it out
Practice – Some players take time to adapt to the Premier League
Group 2 – Did well last season: Janmaat, Colback, Perez
Theory – will continue to shine, probably get better
Practice – form can dip
Group 3 – Underperformers who have shown previous quality (at NUFC or elsewhere): Krul, Coloccini, Cabella, Sissoko, Lascelles, Tiote
Theory – Steve will get the best from them
Practice – some of these guys may be on a permanent downward spiral, or never up to the Premier League in the first place
Group 4 – The perma-crocks. Those that spend most of their contract in the sick bay: de Jong, Aarons, Taylor, Cisse, Haidara
Theory – Steve will sort out the injury issue, it was Pardew’s fault.
Practice – some people are consistently injury prone, or have had one major problem from which they never fully recover, as seen at this club with Michael Owen, Jonathan Woodgate, Kieron Dyer etc etc.
Group 5 – The rest. Some are willing but not great, others are liabilities. But they’re there, adding squad strength in depth: Williamson, Anita, Gouffran, Obertan, Riviere
Theory – we’d sell them if we could but they’re on the payroll so use them in emergencies
Practice – they’re all in the squad every week
For the record I’ve left out young uns and back-up goalies, as they can only prove themselves if circumstances allow.
I’ve also found it hard to categorise Paul Dummett for some reason, as it seemed harsh to put him in group 5 given a decent season last year in difficult circumstances, but it could prove to be his place if he can’t kick on to group 2.
I imagine that any individual reading the above will have their own opinion on who should be in what group and will argue the case that De Jong has overcome his injury setbacks, Cabella needed a season to settle etc.
I’m also sure that certain people will do better under Steve McLaren than they did under previous management.
However, is it realistic to think that enough people can reach the positive, theory based outcomes to have a consistently strong, top 8 standard, match day 18? I honestly don’t think it is, with the centre half position a major concern and the left side not too clever either.
If you go back over and ignore my comments at the end of each group, this is probably how Lee Charnley sees things. A squad that has the potential to do all sorts if McLaren gets his finger out. I hope he thrives on pressure.
Happy new season everyone.
You can follow Jamie on Twitter @Mr_Dolf