Seasonal Greetings from the NUFC Daily Blog. Your esteemed author has skipped Toon for the Emerald Isle and has taken his eye of the ball, but has returned to give you all a welcome dose of reality before the Xmas period of games kicks in. Wouldn’t want the optimists and dreamers to get ahead of themselves now would we?!
Having seen our side come away with an excellent 3-0 victory away to Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park, there seems to be some suggestion that our great start to the season could well end up as a truly memorable season and excel all our expectations by finishing top 6, or *whispers* top 4.
With the spotty form of Manchester United, the void at Spurs that could see them falter after sacking Villas Boas, and the fact that teams like Arsenal, Liverpool and Everton could well falter under pressure, some sections of the Newcastle United faithful have raised the point that with a particular set of circumstances going our way, the Toon could creep unnoticed into the top echelons of English football.
To them I say this – Stop. Wake up. Smell the coffee. The powers that be at Toon Towers are looking at our impressive 30 points before Xmas and are saying to themselves ‘We are only 10 points from safety’ rather than ‘We are 3 points from top 4’.
Do not get me wrong, I personally think that with this impressive points total at this stage of the season, a team like Newcastle United should be dreaming of gate-crashing the top 4 party and putting our hat in the ring, but there are a number of reasons why this will simply not happen.
While we have a first 11 that is growing in confidence, we simply do not have the squad to maintain this assault on the top of the table. Any injuries to Cabaye or Remy will amply demonstrate this sad fact. I have heard many ludicrous suggestions that because Steven Taylor, Jonas Gutierrez and Sylvain Marveaux are not making our match-day squad, that this is evidence as to how strong our squad is. Rubbish. Taylor, Jonas and Marv are not making the match-day squad because they are pathetic players. Also, the fact that Gabriel Obertan is consistently making our 18 man squad is evidence of how woefully short of options we really are. Cisse and Ameobi as our only other striking options is a massive worry.
This would not be such a worry if we had faith in our custodian to assess our squad, see where we are short and take steps to remedy it. However,our club’s custodian is not graced with such foresight. We have a maverick who has shown himself willing to take chances and gamble on the strength of our squad if it means saving him readies. An ambitious owner at this stage of the season, when assessing our position, would make 3 key signings – A centre forward to upgrade Shola, secure Remy on a permanent deal (or another player of his ilk) as well as a dominant centre half. These 3 players would immediately ensure that have depth in the squad moving forward affording us the chance to push on for top 6 , as well as ready-made replacements for players such as Ameobi and Remy who are looking likely to leave in the summer. The fact that I strongly suspect that Ashley will not make such signings instills me with the view that we will not continue this rich vein of form unless we remain very lucky with injuries (as has been the case this season)
I will be keeping a very keen eye on the January transfer window. If we sign a player like Bafetimbi Gomis, who has 6 months left on his contract, I will not see this as a step forward. While we have seen success with this method with Gouffran and Sissoko, they are an exception, not the rule. Token signings for signings sake are also unwelcome. I do not want to see a 17-year-old who is the ‘next big thing’ to be paraded around. While Mbabu may be a good player for the future, I do not care for these sorts of signings if they cannot immediately benefit the first team squad.
Also, signing backup players for positions that we are adequately stocked in will not be greeted with a warm welcome. While I do think Haidara should be given a crack at left-back for the defensively suspect Santon, signing a player in a position where we have 1 or 2 already capable of playing there will not be seen as progress. So if we sign another left back, a goalkeeper or a centre midfield player, these signings will be treated with cynicism – why sign a player in a position we are stocked in? Was the club presented with a cheap option? Or are they readying us for the departure of a key player? <- these are the sort of questions that those signings will evoke.
Some of you may be reading this and think that I am being too demanding, and that I am imposing an unrealistic check-list of demands that Newcastle’s custodian can not fulfil, and to you I say, why should we not be demanding? We find ourselves in a wonderful position in the league, a position that even the most optimistic of fans could not have anticipated, and our next move will determine the trajectory our club will go in. Smart investment in areas where we are weak in will allow us to force ourselves among the top table of English football. Gambling on key players staying fit, coupled with token signings, and cheap options for players with expiring contracts will see a ‘steady as she goes’ approach that could well culminate in us losing this early season momentum and finishing around mid-table.
Mike Ashley has had no input into how this season has started, but he has a lot of say in where we may potentially finish.