After an initial World Cup induced lull, the transfer window finally closed with a whine. The media drooled over the controversial early transfer window closure and lack of big spends by their favourite teams like it was proper news. When Spurs blamed BREXIT for their lack of transfer activity you could hear the collective whoop of delight at News UK. It wasn’t exactly rock n roll though, apart from Liverpool spending quarter of a billion quid, going back on a ‘promise’ not to spend silly money on players and a bit of bother between Mourinho and this week’s enemy.
At Newcastle United we were left wondering how our opening game was against a team which spent nothing but still managed to spend more than us.
It does look to me like Benitez at least has a Newcastle United squad which is more to his taste. He now has three mobile, hard-working, big target men whose main job will be bringing the rest of the team into the attacks. He has the same at centre half, players he can rely on, presumably they will be on time for training and can speak English.
I’m sure the players Rafa got weren’t the players he wanted in an ideal world, but as we know, NUFC is not an ideal world. He probably wanted another winger of Kenedy’s quality, another central defensive midfielder and if he didn’t want another full back as cover for Yedlin and Dummett then he must be mad. No matter what you think of Yedlin, a long-term injury to him means an extended stroll for Manquillo, which in my book makes Yedlin one of our most important players. There is an old work cliché which says “the first thing you do in any job is make yourself indispensable.” By having Manquillo as back-up, Yedlin has achieved that without having to do anything.
For me, this year’s transfer window was particularly interesting for the amount of deals which were for ‘undisclosed’ amounts. I used to think that with more clubs being in shady private ownership, they just did not want to publicise how much they were spending and had a general “What’s it got to do with you?” approach.
Now I think differently. I think most transfer fees are ‘undisclosed’ because clubs don’t know how much the player cost. The selling club knows how much they put in the suitcase, the buying club knows how much was transferred into their coffers from a Bermudan bank account but if both clubs publicise those figures we’d end up with the BBC web site looking like:
Jefferson Lerma (Levante – Bournemouth). Bournemouth paid £25million. Levante received E12million.
Wouldn’t that make the Premier League squirm? It would perhaps bring the NUFC transfer window profit down a bit. As things stand it looks like NUFC made a profit of over £20million on the window.
Take off the ‘undisclosed’ bits of the fees and that is probably about £10million. Take off the ‘paid over the next five years’ bit and this year’s profit was probably closer to £300 and an annual subscription to Men’s Health. Football eh? It’s the only way Sam Allardyce could make a living. Enough said.
‘Football: Home of the spiritually bankrupt’
The season started with Spurs taking three points back to London for the second year running. The Lilywhites may have had to break sweat this year and for much of the game it looked like we could get something, but a combination of bad luck and them having better players than us, meant the end result was a disappointing one.
Over the summer I had completely forgotten that Rafa’s main tactic was to sit back and hit our opponents on the break, so it took me a while to get over them having loads of time on the ball at the back and us being under almost constant pressure. I knew that would change as the World Cup took its toll, who knew that it would be us who tired and them who relaxed. Looks like watching the World Cup took more out of our players than playing in it did theirs.
The period after half time was the 20 minutes when I thought we could win it, we were pressuring and hounding, looked bang up for it, but it was all too fleeting. Their substitutions worked, ours didn’t. As the game fizzled out, watching Shelvey harass Lloris was when I knew the game was over. When your defensive midfielder is the furthest up the pitch then you are out of shape, when he is busting a gut to close down the goalkeeper after 90 minutes of running and you have three attacking players who came on as subs in the last 20 minutes standing watching him, you know they are out of shape. Maybe Spurs are just better than us, plain and simple, maybe Cardiff is more of a game we can win and we should be realistic. Maybe we should stop wearing white socks.
The goalkeeper and defence looked nervous to me in the first half. Perhaps the threat of those World Cup warriors charging towards them unsettled us at the back, perhaps it was first game flutters, maybe Ciaran Clark was having flash-backs to Magaluf.
The defence settled after the break, as did Mo Diame in front of them, but for 45 minutes we looked as disorganised as we ever have defensively under Rafa. That was typified by Shelvey marking Sanchez at set pieces, that looked a complete mis-match aerially and it cost us one goal, almost another soon after. Spurs aren’t a big team, I would have thought that we had enough height to mark one of their centre halves with like-for-like but that wasn’t the way it panned out twice in the first half. Spurs second goal wasn’t much better, Ritchie failing to track Alli’s run, Yedlin not putting a challenge in.
‘How tall is he?’
Ahead of them, Kenedy played well on the left wing apart from a horrible first touch which cost him the chance to shoot when one-on-one with Lloris. He looks like a completely different player this season, as in he’s lost all of his hair. Maybe it was all of the worry about having to come back to Tyneside that turned him bald, or maybe the Kenedy of last season was too expensive to loan this season so we got his Dad.
Either way, bald or not, I’m looking forward to seeing what he can do again this season. Ritchie also did well on the other wing, without the threat of a long, winding run but his delivery was good, as was his work-rate and commitment. A few people were surprised he was substituted but I think Benitez knows when Matt’s mini-Bellamys inside his head are taking over, a needless trip on a Spurs player which would have normally brought a booking perhaps told the Spaniard that Ritchie’s blob was over-heating. It looked like the right call to me, unfortunately Atsu who came on looked like he had forgotten what a football was.
‘Kenedy: Paid a visit to Jonjo’s barbers’
Up front Joselu scored a goal and then stood on the ball when trying to control it, the poor fella, even when he does something good it only takes him a couple of minutes to come crashing back to earth again, literally.
Perez had his invisibility cloak on, which was a shame because Eric Dier looked knackered after all of those 10-minute run outs he had during the World Cup.
Rondon and Muto were both off the pace for me, but it is early days for both of them, and I expect them to make a greater contribution as they get fit and adapt to their surroundings. We created enough chances to have got a result so I guess our next step is to start taking them. Over to you Rondon, Muto, Perez and all.
The week ended with us at least playing football, at NUFC the devil makes work for idle hands to do.
A charming letter from The Ministry of Plenty told us all how hard they were working and how we can now all pull together until January when an inadequate recruitment policy can once again take our mind off the game which is supposed to be the point of it all.
If I have a message for those in charge of who we buy and how we buy them, it is simply that they have four months to decide how to spend nothing. Spend the time and the money wisely.