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The Mike Ashley plan for the January transfer window

1 month ago
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Steve Bruce has revealed the Mike Ashley plan for the 2021 January transfer window.

The recent weeks and days have seen an ever increasing succession of stories from journalists claiming Newcastle United interest in buying players.

Steve Bruce has put us right.

The NUFC Head Coach explaining the cunning plan put together by Mike Ashley.

Actually, you might recognise it…

Steve Bruce:

“January is always a difficult month and it is very rare that you get to a position where you get what you want in January.

“It was the same last January [2020].

“We brought two or three loan players in that certainly helped us [for the rest of that season] and keeping that money back, allowed us to go and get Callum Wilson[in the summer] for example.

“Unless there is something jumping out at us, that we think can really drastically improve us, which you very rarely get in January, then I will be like most other managers and most other clubs, where I think it will be very quiet.

“Arguably, it could be the quietest it’s ever been, because of the problems that everybody’s having.”

As I said above, you should recognise this Mike Ashley plan for the 2021 January transfer window as it is the one we see every year, with rare exceptions.

It would have been a massive surprise if Mike Ashley had allowed any kind of ambition to be shown in the 2021 January transfer window.

When it comes to January transfer windows year after year, this has been the script under Mike Ashley…apart from when relegation has threatened…

January 2013

Bought – Mathieu Debuchy, Mapou Yanga-M’biwa, Massadio Haidara, Yoan Gouffran, Moussa Sissoko, Kevin Mbabu

Loans – None

January 2014

Bought – None

Loans – Luuk de Jong

January 2015

Bought – None

Loans – None

January 2016

Bought – Shelvey, Saivet, Townsend

Loans – Doumbia

January 2017

Bought – None

Loans – None

January 2018

Bought – None

Loans – Slimani, Dubravka, Kenedy

January 2019

Bought – Almiron

Loans – Barreca

January 2020

Bought – None

Loans – Lazaro, Rose, Bentaleb

As you can see clearly above, only when in relegation trouble in Januarys 2013 and 2016 was any significant spending allowed, with the sole exception of Miguel Almiron allowed to be signed in January 2019 AND that came after Mike Ashley insisted in a £20m+ profit in the previous (Summer 2018) window.

The rest of the time it has been loans, or nothing at all.

Steve Bruce talking about the January 2020 transfer window as though it was / is a vindication of the Mike Ashley plan. The reality was that like most loan deals for the final four months of the season, they were arguably a total waste of time, even a negative.

Nabil Bentaleb was abysmal and prevented the likes of the Longstaff brothers getting a game, or even a place on the bench at times. The player now totally sidelined by a Schalke team that looks relegation certainties.

Danny Rose looked unfit and disinterested, bearing no resemblance to the England player he once was. Really poor for Newcastle and after no serious interest from clubs this summer on even taking him on loan, he couldn’t even make the 25 man Spurs PL squad.

Valentino Lazaro was the Inter Milan winger who looked an exciting prospect, yet Steve Bruce only gave him four PL starts, two as a right-back and when he was allegedly supposed to be playing in a more forward position, he was effectively just another defender yet again, as those two were against Liverpool and Man City. Lazaro is now on loan at Borussia Monchengladbach, has made 13 appearances so far, including four in the Champions League, his last appearance helping the German club beat Real Madrid 2-0 and with a last 16 Champions League tie to now look forward to.

Funny how Steve Bruce claimed those January 2020 loans were a big success, yet two of the three had set amounts for Newcastle to buy them, yet Mike Ashley (and Bruce apparently) showed zero interest in buying Bentaleb or Lazaro. Or indeed Rose, who could have been landed with any reasonable offer.

Reality is that with January loans, the vast majority of time you are just temporarily taking on other clubs’ problems, players who have been injured or out of form / favour, in the hope you will get them fit / back into some kind of form by the end of the loan period.

Steve Bruce says about how difficult it is to buy players in January and how rarely it happens, well surely it is pretty much like the Summer windows to a large extent, if you have serious intentions of buying somebody, you make plans well ahead of the window. Indeed, with such a smaller time period between the summer 2020 and January 2021 windows, compared to the previous seasons, I can remember various journalists claiming Newcastle were now (after the Summer 2021 window closed) making plans to land certain players in January 2021 that they had ran out of time to buy in the Summer.

Looking back at what happened in January 2020 when Mike Ashley blocked any players being bought, of the other clubs just over two thirds (13 of 19 – Guardian report) of them bought players in that window.

Likewise, to claim the virus situation will put a stop to anything like the usual levels of transfer activity would make perfect sense / truth, but only if you totally ignored what happened in the last transfer window.

The last five summer windows saw the following expenditure by Premier League clubs (figures via Sky Sports report) – 2016 – £1.19bn, 2017 – £1.49bn, 2018 – £1.27bn, 2019 -1.40bn, 2020 – £1.30bn.

As you can see, the reality of Summer 2020 bore no relation to the claims beforehand of minimal spend, only around 7% less than the previous (2019) summer, indeed this summer was the third highest ever Summer transfer window spend by Premier League clubs.

In January, it will be the usual story, pretty much all the clubs looking to spend money if possible, whether it is trying to win the title, qualify for the Champions League / Europa League, or make sure there is no risk of relegation. Whilst other European leagues massively dropped their spending earlier this year, it was carry on as usual for Premier League clubs with indeed the English clubs actively trying to take advantage of the virus situation, with both overseas and Championship clubs desperate for cash. In France, the collapse of the domestic deal has heaped even more massive pressure on Ligue 1 clubs, on top of the extra financial issues caused by their Government ordering them not to finish the 2019/20 season. Next month clubs in the Premier League will be licking their lips at the prospect of raiding quality players from clubs on the continent, especially in France.

As things stand, Mike Ashley sees 17 points from 12 games so far, although Newcastle United only 14 due to points being spread around far more with so many points dropped by the elite clubs. Reality is though that things can change so quickly and whilst there is an eight point gap between Newcastle and third bottom Fulham, if the Cottagers win tonight at St James Park they would be only five points behind NUFC, with Steve Bruce then next facing Man City, Liverpool and Leicester in the three following PL matches.

Sadly, only if it looks like Newcastle are heading for big relegation trouble, might Mike Ashley consider any spending next month.

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