Football is a squad game we are increasingly told, Steve McClaren even said recently that the most important Newcastle United players weren’t those starting each game, but the ones on the bench who could potentially come on and change the match.
From the days of Derek Llambias, it was made clear that Mike Ashley wouldn’t accept paying top wages for more than the essential players that were needed.
In his own tacky way, the then Managing Director Llambias explained the Ashley plan, using casino chip terminology to explain the different level of players.
I think ‘purples’ were the top players, the first team eleven and highest paid members of the squad, the a different colour for the next eleven players who were ideally up and coming improving players coming up through the suqad, then another eleven who would eventually move through the two levels.
Having more than 11 top players was clearly a waste of money, as it would mean high earners automatically sitting on the bench as there wouldn’t be room for everybody.
This has then led to the recent seasons of struggle, as far too small a squad has meant whenever injury strikes, invariably it means a big drop in quality coming in to replace them.
Before this current season started, Steve McClaren made clear he saw things differently, saying he wanted a squad of around 20 players who he could reliably call on.
Sadly, the big problem is that Newcastle simply don’t have anywhere near 20 players who are fit for purpose.
Recent seasons saw some of Newcastle’s best players such as Cabaye, Remy and Debuchy leave, whilst many players (Gouffran, Marveaux, Riviere, Williamson and others) remain in the squad simply because Newcastle can’t shift them.
That is why Gouffran ends up playing against Manchester City and sitting on the bench in other games.
It is also the case that whilst the likes of Abeid, Santon and Yanga-Mbiwa may not have been unqualified successes, it is hard to accept that they weren’t at the very least better squad players than Newcastle have now. Especially with players such as Haidara, Dummett, Anita and Tiote getting first team games.
For most fans, with everybody fit the first 11 would look pretty much like this for most people:
Krul, Janmaat, Coloccini, Mbemba, Dummett, Colback, Anita, Sissoko, Wijnaldum, Perez, Mitrovic
Even if you accept this first 11 as being good enough, where is the competition for places?
Goalkeepers – Elliot has done well in the last couple of matches but his overall record is an average of conceding two goals a game in the Premier League, whilst we are still to see what Karl Darlow is capable of.
Full-backs – Haidara is on a par with Dummett but with different weaknesses, whilst Kevin Mbabu only has months left on his contract and whilst he did well in his one and a half PL matches, he can’t be that good when Haidara/Dummett are getting a game and Mbemba and other centre-backs have been used at full-back in the past.
Centre-back – Lascelles untried and inexperienced, whilst we know all about Taylor and Williamson’s lack of suitability for the top division.
Centre midfield – Tiote and Anita are just like Dummett/Haidara, neither good enough and leaving a total lack of choice in the engine room.
Wingers – Thauvin was instantly dropped by Steve McClaren whilst Obertan is thankfully in the fifth and final year of his contract. Rolando Aarons is yet to start a PL match and almost permanently injured anyway.
Attacking midfielder – Sadly Siem de Jong has never recovered full fitness and McClaren therefore can’t/won’t trust him in the Premier League, Elsewhere, the likes of Marveaux and Gouffran are also just waiting for their contracts to expire with nothing to offer.
Forwards – Emmanuel Riviere is nowhere near Premier League standard, whilst Papiss Cisse looks to have virtually nothing to offer when he comes onto the pitch and about as much interest.
I think any number of Newcastle players have become complacent due to the lack of competition, when you know that you won’t be dropped no matter how badly you play, it does have an impact on so many players.
The likes of Krul, Coloccini, Sissoko and others have all appeared to coast along in recent seasons.
I would even argue that new signing Mitrovic knows fine well that his position has absolutely no competition and it doesn’t help him to drive himself forward to be the best player he can be.
I think we have a passable 8 or 9 first players, with left-back and a central midfielder to play alongside Colback being the obvious weaknesses. WHilst not far behind those is Coloccini, who once again this season is having at least as many poor games as good ones.
A lack of a squad must surely affect training as well. If day in day out you are facing players who are below Premier League standard then exactly how much of a challenge is it for the first team players?
Unless you are regulars in the Champions League you can’t afford to have 22 quality players in your squad but until Newcastle have enough decent players to fill the matchday 18 man squad, they will be at a massive disadvantage compared to so many other average or better Premier League teams/squads.
(Check out the positions in the team that fans think are most in need of strengthening – read it HERE)
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