Newcastle’s failure to bring in a striker in this latest transfer window has caused something of a furore with many fans and I’ll come to that later, but I just wanted to summarise the transfers and see where we stand.
We’re pretty much where we were in this respect, but with the addition of Rob Elliot. Forster wasn’t here last season and Pardew obviously took a look at him in the summer, decided that he could do without him and thusly allowed him to return to Celtic, which was what Forster wanted anyway.
I have no idea what Rob Elliot is like and neither do I know where he fits into the goalkeeping pecking order, although I assume it’s behind Krul and Harper.
I think we’re pretty much unchanged in this area, although I suspect we’ll find that Krul is now first choice ahead of Harper.
It’s almost like a straight swap with Jose Enrique leaving and Davide Santon arriving. I think Enrique was a good player and his link up work with Gutierrez along the left flank was excellent and – by reputation at least – Santon should be an effective replacement. Whether this particular player swap works out better or worse for us remains to be seen.
We’ve lost Nolan, Barton and Routledge. Routledge was of course on loan for a lot of last season anyway but in terms of this season we’ve lost him as a squad player if nothing else.
We’ve gained Cabaye, Marveaux, Obertan and Abeid, although I’m not yet sure how the latter fits in terms of whether he’s considered ‘first-team’ or a ‘future prospect’.
I would suggest that in terms of positions Obertan is the replacement for Nolan because both can also play up front or off the main striker and we may as well call Cabaye the Barton-replacement, so – in terms of numbers at least – I’d say we have a stronger midfield.
Basically we lost Carroll in January and brought in Demba Ba in June. I don’t think many fans saw Demba Ba as ‘it’ in terms of a ‘Carroll-replacement’ and I don’t think the club did either; Pardew himself insisted that a new striker was a priority even after recruiting Ba. Earlier in the window Pardew said:
“You need to have some sort of strategic planning about what you are doing and some sort or game-plan, and hopefully we are going to call that right. But you can get something out of the woodwork which throws it into disarray and you need Plan B and then you need Plan C. We are hoping we stick to Plan A, but we will see.”
So much for that!
There are two ways of looking at the striker situation. We have the same strikers we did from January onwards last season and Ba to boot, so we’re actually stronger in that respect. So that’s one way to look at it. However we also have to factor in that Carroll and Nolan knocked in 23 goals between them and – irrespective of Nolan technically being a midfielder – I would suggest our strike ‘force’ (if you like) is worse than it was last season.
Of course we don’t know a lot of things yet. Cabaye or Marveaux or Obertan could knock in 10 goals for all we know. Likewise of course they could turn out to be flops. All I can make an assessment on is what I saw last season and what I’ve seen this season and I do think we’re worse off in terms of strikers.
I’m most curious to know why we failed to scout and sign a striker in the 7 months between January 2011 and August 2011. Our scouting network is reputed to be fairly good and, indeed, it seems there were plenty of alleged targets. Some – such as Gervinho and Gameiro – were probably beyond us in terms of the players’ ambitions but there were others who seemed like genuine contenders.
We were ‘transfer-rich’ too, so that should have given us an advantage. I certainly don’t think we should have paid over the odds for some ageing crock but I would have thought we could find someone decent in the £10-£15m mark, which would have still left us with a tidy profit on transfers this year.
The failure to recruit such a player must fall on either the scouts or the man doing the negotiating, which in our case is probably Mike Ashley.
Ashley may well have been ‘penny-pinching’ to such an extreme as to make deals impossible – I just don’t know. If I had to guess though I’d say it was more likely to be lack of experience in him not knowing when he has to ‘give’ something in order to secure a player for the greater long-term good of the club (both financially and on the pitch, both of which are linked anyway).
Was it all smokescreens? Who knows? It may well have been, although I tend to think it was more to do with incompetence and inflexibility in terms of the negotiating.
I could be wrong. Maybe there just simply wasn’t a suitable player available, although I find that hard to believe after 7 months of scouting.
The loss of Nolan and Barton puts quite a dent in the ‘team leadership’ aspect of things, which I think is a very important consideration. We could find that Coloccini and others step in and take up the slack, but it will take time for them to do so and – at least in the interim – I tend to think we’re weaker in terms of leadership.
At the moment I can’t class the transfer window as anything but ‘average’ because I just don’t know how things will pan out with the new players this season. If we can’t replace the 23 goals of Carroll and Nolan I think we’ll be in trouble though.
Total Income From 2011 Transfers: £49m (approx).
Total Outlay On 2011 Transfers: £13m (approx).