Everybody, especially Rafa Benitez, hoped that the Newcastle signings would have all been sort ahead of the season and then it just being a case of how quickly they would integrate into, and hopefully improve, the starting eleven.
It hasn’t quite worked out that way…
The manager brought in Joselu earlier today and reportedly is expecting/hoping to get four more in before the window closes at the end of the month.
Life is never simple under Mike Ashley but leaving that aside, how are we supposed to rate the new signings, can they do the necessary?
Whilst social media is, as ever, full of extremes, I think most supporters will take more of a middle of the road route.
Rather than already writing players off before they have hardly played a game, or claiming Rafa has discovered a handful of hidden gems, fans will see more of a reality.
That reality is that when you are shopping on the lower shelves (below £10m) of Premier League trading, there is far more chance of players ending up being duds.
It isn’t an exact science but generally you pay for what you get.
The real star signings last summer proved to be Ritchie and Gayle, costing a combined £22m, when it came to those costing £5m or less we had a very mixed bunch – hits such as Clark (who had a buyout clause), Hayden, Murphy (at the price/as a short-term option) and Yedlin, as well those who failed to impress like Sels, Lazaar, Hanley, Gamez and Diame.
Bargains can still be found but with every single club looking for exactly these players, it is dreamland to think Newcastle (Ashley) can totally cheat the system.
With surprisingly Rafa Benitez not going down the route of buying a number of players in the twilight of their career (by choice or prevented in doing so), it is a case of on a tight budget the United boss trying to buy players who will end up doing something they haven’t done before…as opposed to repeating what they have done previously in club football.
A prime example is Joselu, for a reported £5m Newcastle have bought a 27 year old striker who has never scored double figures in a (top level – not second tier) league season. With four for Stoke in 2015/16 and five for Deportivo last season, can he leave those kind of goals totals well behind?
I hope so BUT I wouldn’t bet on it.
Like the rest of you I will get behind Joselu (and the rest of the new/existing players) but I won’t be expecting him to be great, if he can play a part great but when the likes of Championship side Middlesbrough are paying £15m for a striker, you would have to be a bit mad to assume Newcastle have signed a better forward for a third of the price.
Likewise, Florian Lejeune has one season of football in the top tier of any country behind him, having at the age of 26 played almost all of his previous career in the second divisions of French and Spanish football. The truth is that because there is only one season to really form an impression on, Newcastle/Rafa could afford him, if he had played and impressed in La Liga then he would be out of Newcastle’s/Ashley’s price bracket.
I read people talking assuredly of Mikel Merino stepping in for Jonjo Shelvey, some seemingly even pleased that Shelvey ruled himself out. If Merino does start at Huddersfield then it will be only his third ever starting eleven for a club playing in a first/top division, after two league starts in the Bundesliga.
Jacob Murphy has never played in a first division, whilst Manquillo is actually the most experienced of the signings in terms of playing in the top divisions of any of the top five European leagues but those games were almost exclusively on loan at three different clubs whilst on the books of Atletico Madrid.
Likewise Christian Atsu has led a nomadic existence, the winger at the age of 25 starting only his fifth game on Sunday (v Tottenham) for a club playing in one of the big five leagues.
They are all players still to prove themselves and hopefully the fact that none of the six signings so far have any significant CV will see them busting a gut to prove themselves for Newcastle.
However, both Rafa Benitez and his players need to be given time to get sorted, even if the early stages of the season prove a struggle. The bottom line is that the Newcastle manager hasn’t been allowed/backed to bring in a certain level of signing and so has had to take risks all over the place.
Obviously Rafa has to take a degree of responsibility for his signings but that can only be viewed within the wider picture, which is being asked to assemble a squad on a threadbare budget compared to pretty much every other club, as even both Huddersfield and Brighton have a net spend of around twice as much as Newcastle’s at this moment in time.
Rafa Benitez is facing potentially his greatest ever challenge in trying to keep Newcastle in the Premier League, never mind rebuilding the club/team.
(All contributions from Newcastle fans welcome, send articles (as well as ideas/suggestions) to [email protected])