After being dragged from pillar to post over the course of the transfer window, where both the manager, and the Director of Football seemed to agree that we needed at least 2 new players, we ask the question “Is our squad good enough?” because our owner certainly seems to think it is.
But this question isn’t as easily answered as it would first appear, because first you must determine what exactly is it that Newcastle United want to achieve this season. If one was to say that our goal for this season is to finish in the top 6, then the answer most definitely is that our squad is nowhere near good enough. If one was to say, our goal is to avoid relegation, then the answer would surely be, yes it is good enough. Personally, I think we should be aiming for top 8, but I have a sneaky suspicion that the owner is aiming for top 10, but really doesn’t mind so long as we’re not relegated.
So let’s take a look at the current 25 man squad with the top 8/top 10 in mind.
Shola Ameobi, Vurnon Anita, Hatem Ben Arfa, Yohan Cabaye, Papiss Cisse, Fabricio Coloccini, Mathieu Debuchy, Paul Dummett, Rob Elliot, Dan Gosling, Yoan Gouffran, Jonas Gutierrez,Tim Krul, Sylvain Marveaux, Gabriel Obertan, Loic Remy, Davide Santon, Moussa Sissoko, JamesTavernier, Ryan Tayor , Steven Taylor,Cheik Tiote, Mike Williamson, MapouYanga Mbiwa,
In goals we have one excellent keeper, and one pretty sound stand in, so we should be all right here. In defence, M’biwa looks shaky unless he’s accompanied by Coloccini, in fact that could also be said of both Debuchy and Santon as well. Without Colo marshalling the back 4, they look rather lost, so if Colo suffers an injury or wants to go walkabout to S.America again then we could be in trouble, as neither Taylor nor Williamson look like decent backup, and the jury is still out on whether Dummett or Haidara can make the step up to Premier League level. So in defence, without the experience and backup of both Simpson and Perch, we are looking relatively weaker as a unit.
In midfield is where we struggled for large parts of last season, with injuries to key players such as Ben Arfa and Cabaye, coupled with poor performances from the likes of Tiote and Jonas meant that this was an area we needed to improve upon. The signing of Sissoko provides us with another dimension in midfield, if used correctly, and by integrating the likes of Anita and Marveaux into this midfield one could argue that we have good options here, and with Bigirimana we have a burgeoning young talent coming through the ranks. The reality is that it is up to the manager to manage these players effectively and put out the most exciting midfield available. If he chooses the correct formation, we could have a very solid, but very fluid midfield capable of holding on to the ball, as well as being capable of creating chances. The first step is to ensure that Jonas Gutierrez and Cheik Tiote spend some time on the bench, which is something the manager seems unwilling to do.
Scoring goals is what we failed to do last season, we struggled for goals even with Demba Ba, and we sure as hell struggled for them after he left. A striker was at the top of the agenda going into the summer transfer window and we sorta/kinda got one. Loic Remy is capable of playing on the wing as well as centrally, and as evidenced by the final 15 mins of the Fulham game, when used in conjunction with Hatem Ben Arfa, Gouffran and Papiss Cisse, we could have a very formidable attack. However, what do we do if HBA, Remy or Cisse suffer an injury? Gouffran has shown to be somewhat inconsistent and profligate in front of goal, and Shola Ameobi….well he’s past his best shall we say.
The truth of the matter is that while we have an interesting and exciting first 11, maybe even first 14, but the depth in behind that is worryingly thin. Do we have a squad good enough to crack the top 8? In my opinion, no. Do we have a squad good enough to finish top 10? Perhaps, but a lot would rest on the manager, and I don’t have much faith in him. Do you?