Back in August many of us believed the Newcastle United squad that Alan Pardew was taking into the new season was threadbare and would face a season of struggle. Those who stubbornly defend the club pointed to the players brought in over the summer and some even made mention of Graeme Carr’s super-scout credentials.
Of the attacking players Carr brought into the squad – de Jong, Cabella, Riviere, Perez and Ferreya, I think it’s fair to say there has been mixed results. The easily identifiable injury prone nature of de Jong have continued this season on Tyneside and he has barely kicked a ball in anger. He looks every inch the crock. Cabella has made a fitful contribution, looks lightweight and barely up for the physical challenges of the Premier League. Ferreya is a straightforward mystery and not had a single minute on the pitch all season. Before Christmas, Perez looked a fine prospect but latterly when he has been used he looked tired and his withdrawal from the starting line-ups suggests the lad has been over-used this season and is exhausted. Then there is Riviere – still looking for his first goal in PL football. It’s now March. Riviere was hardly prolific in France with Monaco and it does not look like he has what it takes to be a PL footballer on the evidence of what we have seen so far. Add into the mix that Papiss Cisse has not been properly fit all season and our attacking options are straightforwardly blunt.
There has been a concern about what we have in central defence for quite some time – Colo has proven to be the only defender who looks consistently comfortable at this level (but more of him lately), Steven Taylor’s career at United is probably over now, ending as one long term injury after another substantially reduces his value to us whereas Mike Williamson is challenging many for the “worst centre half I’ve seen at United since …” Then there has been Dummett, moved from full back to central defence only this season and Mbwia shipped out to Roma on loan without any replacement brought in back in January.
In only one area did Carr get it right – the swap of Debuchy for Janmaat – that was excellent business!
In two key areas Carr, the club’s de-facto Director of Football has failed to bring in players of sufficient quality and along with Charnley and Ashley failed to invest in the players that would push the club on.
In January, that position was exacerbated with the sales of Santon to Inter Milan and Mbwia to Roma. No replacements were brought in. Further, several fringe players with some first team experience were shipped out on loan to Rangers where Ashley has business interests.
Then put on top of all of that the decision made not to appoint an immediate and suitable replacement for Pardew (hopefully an improvement) being kicked into the long grass and the temporary promotion of John Carver to Head Coach and you have the recipe for the crisis the club is slipping inexorably towards. It would appear the club will do very well not to finish in the bottom half of the table though for thorough malcontents such as myself I will take a grim satisfaction from the lack of top ten bonuses paid to everyone from Charnley downwards.
Of course you also have to add into the mix the indiscipline and lack of leadership from Papiss Cisse in getting himself banned for seven games for spitting in retaliation at Jonny Evans in the Man Utd game and the bone-headed dereliction of responsibility from Fabricio Coloccini in getting himself sent off pointlessly at Everton. Colo has been one of my all-time favourite United players from over four decades following the club but he is no leader on the park and sadly his powers are on the wane. Given the upcoming fixtures – Arsenal, Mackems and then Liverpool, the captain has let down his club, his team-mates and supporters very badly.
What I’ve been thinking about for some time about our team is the lack of partnerships on the park that we have. In recent times we have had Tiote-Cabaye in the middle of the park, Enrique-Jonas down the left, Nolan-Carroll in attack and so on. Now there is nothing. I don’t see any evidence of a solid unit anywhere. The club is just a loose affiliation of individuals. That applies on the park as well as off it.
If there was anything to come from the game at Everton though it was the success of the FSF’s 20’s Plenty campaign in persuading clubs to adopt a reciprocal deal for away travellers to Goodison and St James’ Park. It was especially satisfying to see Everton’s fan-group, the Blue Union and the Newcastle United Supporters Trust via the FSF to recognise both clubs in displaying a banner recognising the £20 ticket price for away fans. That is a great move in the right direction and one every fan will appreciate I’m sure. Sadly, across Stanley Park at Anfield, Liverpool FC have chosen to charge a staggering £52 to visiting fans for our fixture down there next month. Its just my opinion but any fan who forks out £52 to watch this game, live on TV on a Monday night isn’t loyal, they just need their heads examined. It is shameful.
So then, Williamson our only fit centre-half for this weekend for the visit of Arsenal.
This is Mike Ashley’s Newcastle United.
Keep On, Keepin’ On …
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