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I’m not just talking about haters/useless pundits like Souness and Owen…

4 years ago

Nobody could say this Newcastle United squad is Premier League quality.

I’m not just talking about haters/useless pundits like Souness and Owen. It’s not even close. Is there a single true PL quality player? Highly debatable.

When we last fell through the trapdoor for example, we had Wijnaldum all year (at home of course), and an Andros Townsend who cared, tried and for the most part delivered for half of it. Neither player has an equal in the current squad.

A quick breakdown:


The only position where we might consider ourselves to be reasonably well covered.

Rob Elliot is a good ‘keeper and Karl Darlow, despite a propensity for rash decision-making, is an able back-up. Quite where the old Tim Krul has gone is baffling.

Right Back

Jesus Gamez – A journeyman signed for the Championship. Generally injured.

Javier Manquillo – Failed at Liverpool and Sunderland. NUFC the natural resting place for such players.

DeAndre Yedlin – To me, a small ray of hope with pace and attacking verve but suspect going backwards which is more what will be happening this season that last.

Centre Back

Grant Hanley – Not good enough for a squad number.

Paul Dummett – He is included here because he is not a left-back no matter how much he plays there. Being left footed doesn’t make you a left-back. Short of pace and attacks with his head down at LB. Cannot cross the ball. Should remain in the centre. At least worth keeping.

Florian Lejeune – Fingers crossed. Would be unsurprised if nobody else had heard of him before he signed either.

Jamaal Lascelles – Tries, but short of pace and experience. Good Championship defender.

Ciaran Clark – Ran the Championship, potential to do well in PL if he keeps his brain in gear.

Chancel Mbemba – Hot and cold

Left Back

Massadio Haidara and Achraf Lazaar – The fact of the matter here is that we have these two left-backs at the club but Rafa would rather play the woefully ill-equipped Mbemba there. Two atrocious signings. Massive knock on effect for Atsu or Ritchie, or whoever plays up ahead on the left. How can this be allowed to happen.


Siem De Jong – Seemingly leaving. How many international caps has this guy got for Holland? Another Stephane Guivarc’h. Such a disappointment.

Henri Saivet – Who?

Matt Ritchie – Closest we have to PL quality but he needs some help.

Mohammed Diame – Monumentally lazy. Didn’t even make a mark in the Championship.

Jack Colback – I was happy when he signed, looked neat and tidy and won balls for the mackems. Not sure what has happened here but surely worthy of a squad number.

Isaac Hayden – If fit should always play. Combative and a good engine, the sort of guy we need holding.

Mikel Merino – Fingers crossed. Lazy tracking of Mooy hopefully not a sign of things to come.

Jonjo Shelvey – Please please engage your brain. He needs to fire if there is any chance of survival.

Christian Atsu – The one dangerous and skilful looking player. Must play.

Rolando Aarons – Has never played enough to really know.

Jacob Murphy – Good in the Championship, PL an unknown.


Dwight Gayle – Struggled before in the PL. Dodgy hamstrings and looks off the pace so far, perhaps looks worse due to being thoroughly isolated.

Aleksandar Mitrovic – Maybe an unpopular view, but perhaps our best hope – see below.

Joselu – Journeyman, previous PL failure. Can only hope.

The above makes pretty grim reading given that the likes of Everton are chucking £100m plus at a window.

I can’t see Rafa changing his footballing ideology, which is not ‘kick and rush’. I would have thought he would sooner leave. The quality to pass it round teams is not there.

That said, the Huddersfield game particularly was perforated by long diagonals from which little was gained. You can’t expect Gayle to mix it aerially. The fact is though that plenty of other teams lacking PL quality have survived over the years with at least one big strong bully of a centre forward leading the line, others feeding on scraps and knock downs, concentrating on set-pieces, and displaying no-nonsense organised defending.

I’m thinking the original Stoke, or any other Tony Pulis team for that matter, Deeney at Watford, Llorente last year at Swansea. It has not been pretty but the job of staying up has been done. Purists won’t like it, but for me I’d far rather win ugly with kick and rush and stay up, than try to polish a turd and go down again, particularly now as teams going down are at so much more of a disadvantage as teams staying up pull away from them financially on the back of the TV money.

If Mitrovic had some additional mobility, he would be a serious proposition for any defender. He is still though strong, good in the air, has a decent touch and he cares. Caring is going to lead to cards, so you can forgive him that. Our first two games this season show how ineffectual we can be and probably will continue to be. That toothlessless and losing of games without raising so much as a whimper going forward was symptomatic of both recent relegations.

Mitro up front, Gayle off him. Murphy’s pace and Perez’ cameos off the bench.

In this style the midfielders need to show some appetite and desire, get themselves fit enough to get up and down the pitch. You don’t need talent to be fit.

The defenders are decent physical specimens and with Rafa in charge could get themselves properly organised, although they definitely need some proper help from the flanks, and unless we sign someone worthwhile on both sides this help won’t be there, which is the biggest problem with this way of thinking.

We are where we are. We are not in good shape, but we aren’t dead if we adapt.

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