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Opinion

Back to reality with Newcastle United

7 months ago
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Now the welcome/unwelcome distraction of the World Cup is out of the way, we can now turn our attentions to proper football, the bread and butter of Newcastle United and the Premier League.

The weekly excitement of going to watch your team far outstrips the nonsense of watching the national side. It was good to see the country united with England getting further than most expected, but once reality dawned and they played a half decent side, it was always likely to pan out the way it did. Give me the daily/weekly dose of Newcastle United over the national side any day.

After Newcastle confirmed their Premier league status for another season way back in April, a layman could be forgiven for thinking that it would be time for a significant spend in the transfer market, so that Rafa Benitez could take Newcastle to the next level after a steady 10th place finish. But no! With just over THREE weeks of the window remaining, we have Martin Dubravka, Ki Sung-yueng and Kenedy (on loan) through the door. That’s two players we already had last season and a freebie. Er, bravo! Slow hand-clapping all round.

I tell you something, he’s canny that Mike Ashley. With Mikel Merino departing to Spain, it’s entirely feasible that the fee banked for him (reportedly £10m) will have covered the three players we’ve signed, a common trait under this owner and not one that has had sustained success. The infamous 5th place finish produced a reaction in the summer that followed, a feeble reaction whereby only Vernon Anita was added to a side that was playing in two cups and two leagues spread across domestic and European competitions. We all know how that turned out.

Now, I can’t poo-poo the summer signings so far. Dubravka is a cracking goalkeeper, Kenedy is a class apart from what we have and Sung-yueng will give us some competition in the middle, but once again it’s selling high and buying very low, sometimes not at all. You don’t get away with it very often, as was the case after that 5th place finish where relegation was inevitable eventually.

This summer, there is no reason why we can’t go and sign the clinical striker Rafa Benitez wants, as well as Andros Townsend, while at the same time keeping our current squad intact – except for the obvious departures of reserve players and players not in Rafa’s plans. The manager shouldn’t be looking at flogging the garden shed to fund a new patio, you can’t have too much quality or strength in depth. Heaven forbid a major injury occurs to this team, as the whole thing would look decidedly rickety.

For what it’s worth, I feel two other players are also required as a minimum. The first should be competition for Matt Ritchie down the right, NOT as a replacement. I’d be happy enough for that to be Andros Townsend. My second signing would be someone who can compete with both Paul Dummett AND DeAndre Yedlin. I feel the two players have strengths that are completely opposite to each other, one good at going forward but poor defensively (Yedlin) and the other good at defending but gets a nosebleed when crossing the halfway line.

Now if the above did happen, I wouldn’t be completely unhappy if a new number one striker didn’t arrive. I think with what we have going forward, we are decent. A combination of Shelvey, Sung-yueng, Diame, Perez, Ritchie, Kenedy and Townsend is a cracking pool of players to play behind Dwight Gayle and I feel he would score more chances next season with that set up. I would obviously love to see either a top clinical striker be bought outright and Gayle drop to the bench, or at least a back up striker come in. I wouldn’t advocate signing one just for the sake of it. That gets you a Joselu.

The squad is more than capable now that we have Kenedy and Dubravka for a full season, it’s just lacking a little bit of extra quality and depth that wins you more games than a side that scrapes 10th. Extra depth would also allow us to have a crack at a cup, which I’m sure is something Rafa wants to do.

There is still that little nagging at the back of mind. Whenever we are doing reasonably well, up pops the owner with a spanner in the works to derail any idea of progress. If he backs Rafa with two big signings, I’m sure he’ll sign a new contract. However, if history is anything to go by, by 9th of August we’ll end up having sold Merino, Hayden, Mitrovic, Ritchie and Lascelles for £70m+ and brought in Sung-yueng, Dubravka, Kenedy and Townsend for far less.

As I’ve said, there is only just over three weeks left of this transfer window and I can’t say I’ve got the confidence in the club hierarchy to get enough quality onboard in that time. The clock is ticking.
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