This of course has been true since January, when a certain someone departed to join Kenny Dalglish’s revolution, and our inability to act for a replacement due to the timing of the transfer. Now summer has arrived, we do have the time, and already names are being linked for the vacancy, some realistic, some not so, but the obvious fact is, the owners and management are in the process of finding the man to shoulder the responsibility of the number 9 shirt.
Newcastle, performed admirably in front of goal in the Premier League last season, with our captain, Kevin Nolan, managing 12, Carroll 11, Ameobi, Lovenkrands and Best each netting 6, Joey Barton hitting 4 and Jonas along with Steven Taylor netting 3. There were also a couple from Coloccini, and solitary strikes from Ben Arfa and Cheick Tiote, along with an own goal from West Broms Olsson, taking Newcastle’s Total to 56. Not Bad, in fact it was the joint 6th highest in the division. The 41 goals scored at St James’ was the most we have managed in the last decade (not counting our Championship season).
The problem we had, and for many years have had in the top flight, is our inability to stop the goals being scored at the other end of the pitch. In our 19 home matches we managed to ship 27 goals, away we shipped 30, providing my calculations are correct, that is 57 times Harper or Krul had to pick the ball from the net.
So what is the problem? Is it fair to pick out an individual from the back line? Thankfully the days of glaring mistakes, week in/out, that we continually saw from the likes of Bramble and Boumsong are not happening any more, but there are still problems, and its more of a collective issue. Danny Simpson has come under fire, for times in which he has been perceived to back away from the attacker. ‘Spurs at home springs to mind, but what Simpson doesn’t have, Enrique does, a wide midfielder in Jonas, who sticks to his position and tracks back to cover. Its obvious to see, that teams try to exploit our right hand side, as at times Barton is forced to move into the middle to help dictate play, leaving Simpson exposed. Harry Redknapp stated this in public, after the game at home as he wanted to field Pienaar and Bale down Spurs left, because we at times don’t play with a right midfielder.
Games, as they say, are won and lost in midfield. The addition of Yohan Cabaye, a box-to-box midfielder with a good engine and impressive ball retention, will strengthen the middle of the park. He, alongside Tiote, should result in us keeping the ball much better in the middle, better than if Tiote is alongside Nolan, who the latter is much more effective playing in the hole behind the striker. This should result in Barton, if he is still here, not having to keep moving in field to aid with dictating the play.
Concentration though is the main problem throughout the squad, with potential winning positions thrown away in games such as Stoke (h), Chelsea (h), Mackems (a), Spurs (h), Bolton (h), Everton (h), Blackpool (a) and West Brom(h), costing us 18 points. Though I would like to discount the Chelsea game as a point was excellent, we should be beating the likes of Stoke/Bolton and West Brom at home, especially after taking the lead. There are also the games in which mentally we didn’t turn up such as the drubbings at the Britannia and Reebok Stadiums.
Hopefully we require just minor tweaking, there were also some cracking results during the season, which should show that with a few tweaks here and there, we can build on for next season. Concentration though can’t be bought, it needs to be worked on at training, so Alan Pardew must work on that during the summer months so that when we return in August, we have cut out the silly mistakes which ultimately cost us a higher league position. Hopefully the team can also stay injury and suspension free so Pardew can get a system working to his liking. There is no point spending millions on attacking options, it will not matter who we sign, if as a unit, we can’t concentrate for a full 90 minutes.
I think we have had an excellent start to the summer thus far with the capture of Cabaye. The new striker, who ever he will be, we will know soon enough. I think some of us, myself included, are preoccupied with the thought of strikers, attacking players and the 35 million, (I’m not saying I don’t want ‘bum’s off seat’s’ type of players), but there are issues within the team which can be resolved without massive costs, and these are the things that I want to see worked on this summer and hopefully, fixed for next season.
What will be spent on players is out of Pardew’s hands. We can speculate all day on how much in funds is available, or who indeed is actually bringing in the new recruits. One thing is for sure, there will be changes, whatever the team will be for next season, they must up their concentration levels and retain the ball better collectively, it will result in an even better season and we can build on what was an excellent return to where we belong.