There you have it, the World Cup is sadly over, and I think few could have many complaints about the eventual winners. Germany were by far the best team in the tournament, combining ruthless efficiency with some moments of sheer class to deservedly win the most coveted prize in world football. Now that the World Cup is over, and we are now only 32 days away from the new Premier League season, I thought it appropriate to give my views on Newcastle United’s summer transfer business thus far and form some conclusions where, as things stand, does this leave the club going forward into the new season.
To say that Newcastle United’s transfer business was underwhelming prior to the recent acquisitions of former Ajax man, Siem de Jong, and current France International Remy Cabella, is an understatement. Having only signed Jack Colback on a free from the unwashed, and securing the services of talented, yet unproven, Spanish kid Ayoze Perez, one could be forgiven for thinking it would be more of the same as Newcastle United would flatter to deceive and go into the new season with a grossly inadequate squad.
However, in recent days, the club has taken rather pro-active steps to secure the services of a couple of very capable players which some have taken to social media to claim as an act of intent that Mike Ashley does indeed want to push the club forward in the right direction. While I must admit that I do agree with the sentiment that these two players are indeed quite capable, unless many more signings are finalised between now and the end of the transfer window, it will be more akin to maintaining the status quo than any semblance of squad building.
Before I get accused of being cynical, or negative, let me back up my point of view. From 25-man squad that was named for the start of last season we are currently 6 players lighter; Shola Ameobi, Dan Gosling, James Tavernier, Yohan Cabaye, Loic Remy and Mathieu Debuchy (all but confirmed). While some would argue that Shola Ameobi, Dan Gosling and James Tavernier are not great losses (especially since the latter spent the whole season away from the club on loan) it still is worth mentioning that Shola made 28 appearances in all competitions last season while Dan Gosling was consistently in our match-day squads, making 10 appearances in all competitions. Add those two to the monumental losses felt by the departure of Cabaye, the inevitable departure of Debuchy and the expiration of Loic Remy’s loan spell, then we were left with very sizeable holes left in our squad that needed to be addressed.
For argument’s sake, let’s say De Jong fills the hole left by Remy, Cabella fills the hole left by Cabaye, the reported signing of Janmaat fills the hole left by the outgoing Debuchy, Perez fills the hole left by Shola and Colback fills the hole left by Gosling* then surely a case can be made that the signings that have been made are solely replacements for the players we have let go? In fact, the positivity that has been spun on social media has no basis because there has been no actual squad building. In order to build a squad that is better than the one before, you do not replace your building blocks with other building blocks, you build on the building blocks you already have with more building blocks. If you keep switching like-for-like then you will never get anywhere. You will simply stay where you are.
(*A lot of these players are not like-for-like signings as they play somewhat different positions/roles)
This is the crux of the issue I’m afraid. We are standing still. I said at the start of last season that we were at least 5/6 players short of a squad that could realistically push the top 6 teams, and that was shown to be the case in the second half of last season. Therefore, I will echo those sentiments this time around. We are at least 5/6 players short of a squad who can realistically challenge the top 8 teams in the Premier League.
It must also be said that everything that has been aforementioned is on the pretence that we do not sell any more players. If any more players are let go, we need to sign their replacements and then sign another 5/6 players on top of that – this is with the expected departures of Hatem Ben Arfa and Yanga Mapou M’biwa in mind.
While I am glad that we have replaced quality players such as Loic Remy, Yohan Cabaye and Mathieu Debuchy with potentially quality players in Siem de Jong, Remy Cabella and Daryl Janmaat (still to be confirmed), this does not satisfy me as there has been nothing in the way of actual progress.
I am cynical when it comes to Newcastle United. I am negative when it comes to Mike Ashley. I am frustrated when it comes to Alan Pardew. But don’t I have good reason to be? So while Pardew is patting himself on the back for bringing a few players in, Newcastle United are still a long way short of where they need to be going into next season. Unfortunately, I fear they have done enough to flog those remaining season-tickets, and get the happy clappers back on board to fill up the stadium for the visit of reigning champions Manchester City on the opening day of the season. To say this fact disappoints me is an understatement.