The 2013/2014 season was, yet again, another season of disappointment and mediocrity (at best) for Newcastle United. If one word could even better sum up the Magpies league campaign, surely your finger would fall on “inconsistent.” At times, they were very fun to watch and played some top football, while other moments (more so than the former) were frustrating to the point of madness for the Geordie faithful.
Despite Alan Pardew head-butting Hull City midfielder David Meyler, being fined 100,000pounds by the club and being given a formal warning at St. James’ Park, the fact that he still remained on the touchline for the club could well sum up the season entirely. After struggling to finish top of the table at all, a respectable 10th place finish come the final day could well and truly be the only bright spot for the club.
The loss of Yohan Cabaye hit Newcastle hard, with the French international moving to Paris Saint Germain and the club failing to properly replace him being pinpointed as the turning point in their domestic fortunes. Surely Cabaye can make any side better, but the continued employment of Pardew after his antics and the sides many poor showings last season will surely come to the fore from the very first kick of the 2014/2015 season in anger.
On the surface, Pardew and Mike Ashley have done brilliantly in the transfer market this summer, but that has yet to answer the questions that still remain after last season, most importantly, how long does Pardew really have? With their successful summer on the pitch and in regards to their expenditures, Pardew will undoubtedly be on an incredibly short leash; the club and the fans will expect a charge up the table and proper flirtations with Europa League qualifications – anything less, and Pardew will surely be out the door.
TRANSFERS IN (nine, totaling 37.6million pounds):
Remy Cabella; AM (12million pounds from Montpellier) - Why save the best for last? Surely, Cabella is easily Newcastle’s best signing this summer. With the status of Hatem Ben Arfa remaining as “leper extraordinare”, Cabella is the ideal summer signing to come in and fill the creative and expressive void once occupied by his fellow Frenchman. Creative in every way possible, silky smooth on the ball and with an eye for goal, Cabella won’t need long to endure himself to the Newcastle faithful.
Siem de Jong; AM (6million pounds from Ajax Amsterdam) - With Newcastle’s struggles in the offensive third of the pitch last season (only netting 40 time sin 38 league matches), Alan Pardew has gone to great lengths to remedy the situation. In addition to Cabella, Ajax attacking midfielder Siem de Jong was brought in to provide even further creative ability. Able to slot in behind the striker, as a striker or in midfield, De Jong is one of many in the new-look Newcastle attack that is sure to impress this season.
Emmanuel Riviere; ST (6million pounds from AS Monaco) - With AS monaco being well stocked with attacking options, Newcastle pipped Riviere away from the Principality side in a good piece of business that nets them an attacking player with pace and a direct style that can hopefully replace Loic Remy. Still with much to prove at club level, the Frenchman offers Pardew plenty of options to rotate his new-look attacking force, and plenty of pace off the bench.
Daryl Janmaat; RB (5million pounds from Feyenoord Rotterdam) - Janmaat was one of the stories of the World Cup for the Netherlands. Along with Daley Blind, Janmaat emerged as first-choice right back for Louis van Gaal after a brilliant season at Feyenoord under now Southampton boss Ronald Koeman. An all-round excellent defender, who’s ability going forward to lend weight to the attack will undoubtedly be called upon as the club seek to properly replace Mathieu Debuchy.
Jamaal Lascelles; CB (3.5millon pounds from Nottingham Forest) - Jamaal Lascelles comes to St. James’ Park as a highly touted young central defender, however Pardew feels the 20-year old England youth international still needs a bit of seasoning in the Championship. Excellent in the air, able to pick a pass out and unafraid to sacrifice his body, Lascelles is sure to be seen as a long term option for the club and a ready made replacement for either Fabricio Coloccini or Mike Williamson.
Karl Darlow; GK (3.5million pounds from Nottingham Forest) - With Tim Krul the unquestionable first-choice shot-stopper in Geordie country and Rob Elliot providing capable backup, Karl Darlow joined Lascelles in being loaned back to former club Nottingham Forest this season. Already with a shut out in Forest’s season opening 2-0 win against Blackpool, Darlow will likely return to Newcastle next summer ready to become understudy to Krul; should Krul leave the club, Darlow may well challenge for the number one shirt.
Ayoze Perez; ST (1.6million pounds from CD Tenerife) - Ayoze Perez comes to Newcastle on the back of a very good season in Spain’s second division with CD Tenerife. 16 goals in 34 appearances is a very good return from a player who just turned 21-years of age, and he’s already shone in the Magpies impressive preseason this summer. Not expected to be in Pardew’s XI, Ayoze does give another very good option off the bench, who is sure to see significant minutes in the Carling and FA Cup’s.
Jack Colback; CM (free from Sunderland) - With Moussa Sissoko, Vernon Anita and Cheick Tiote the only options in central midfield for the Magpies, Pardew pulled off a two-fold move for Jack Colback. Not only does he now have four very solid options to choose from in the middle of the park, but he stole a very good midfielder off the books from arch-rivals Sunderland, after Colback refused a new contract with the Black Cats to join the St. James’ Park revitalization. Won’t be first choice, but is still a very good purchase for quality in depth.
Facundo Ferreyra; ST (season-long loan from Shakhtar Donetsk) - Even though Ferreyra comes to the club on a season long loan from Shakhtar, there is every indication that Newcastle fully intend to bring him on full time at the completion of the season; if his pre-season is anything to go by, Ferreya could well set the world alight in the north of England. Still only 23-years old and down the pecking order, Ferreyra’s loan move to the Magpies gives them a very talented attacking player who only has to contend with Papiss Cisse and Riviere for the starting job at striker; I fully expect him to succeed in claiming the role as his own.
TRANSFERS OUT (eight, totaling a reported 12million pounds):
Mathieu Debuchy; RB (12million pounds to Arsenal) - The lure of Champions League football proved too much for rampaging right-back Mathieu Debuchy. The French international secured his move to Arsenal not long after France’s Brazilian vacation came to an end at the hands of eventual champions Germany. But with the purchase of Daryl Janmaat, Newcastle did very ell to fill a potential massive void at the back.
James Tavernier; RB (Undisclosed to Wigan Athletic) - Never really tipped for a long term future at St. James’ Park, Tavernier has swapped the Premier League for the Championship with a move to Wigan Athletic. He’ll be happy with the move no doubt, as regular first-team football will be much easier to come by.
Jamaal Lascelles and Karl Darlow; CB and GK (loaned back to Nottingham Forest for the season) - Their moves to the club this season were ones that Alan Pardew clearly has in mind for the future; both players were sent back to Nottingham Forest for the season, but both could be apart of the Newcastle first-team come next season.
Sylvain Marveaux; LW (season-long loan to En Avant Guingamp) - Marveaux was already finding it difficult to feature consistently in the first team, but with so many attacking additions in the door at the club this summer, Pardew has opted to send him back to his native France on loan rather than sell him outright; selling him could still be a realistic option should have do well with Guingamp.
Adam Campbell; ST (season-long loan to Fleetwood Town) - The England striker has shone some promise for the club at youth levels, and as such, his future will look to be aided by a loan move to a lower tier to ensure he plays week in and week out.
Romain Amalfitano, Shola Ameobi, Dan Gosling, Conor Newton, Michael Richardson and Steven Logan all given free transfers
PREDICTED STARTING XI:
If 4-2-3-1: Tim Krul; Davide Santon, Fabricio Coloccini, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, Daryl Janmaat; Cheick Tiote, Moussa Sissoko; Yoan Gouffran, Siem de Jong, Remy Cabella; Emmanuel Riviere
If 4-4-2: Tim Krul; Davide Santon, Fabricio Coloccini, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, Daryl Janmaat; Yoan Gouffran, Cheick Tiote, Moussa Sissoko, Remy Cabella; Siem De Jong, Facundo Ferreyra
It is tough to gauge which direction Alan Pardew will go this coming season. The purchases made this season, especially Siem De jong and Remy Cabella, surely fit the profile for a 4-2-3-1, affording a very creative attacking trio behind the striker the ability to roam and dictate terms. However, Newcastle were far more effective in a 4-4-2 last summer, and given their depth at striker, Pardew could easily opt with that tactical deployment as well; he has shown his continued preference for the 4-4-2 in preseason, however with the players now on offer, it could be far more fluid than last season.
- Depth in the Attack - Emmaneul Riviere, Facundeo Ferreyra, Ayoze Perez, Papiss Cisse, Remy Cabella, Siem de Jong, Yoan Gouffran, Gabriel Obertan and Hatem Ben Arfa (if he ever features for the club again) are all players who will feature for the first team this season. It is not a star-studded list of attacking players, but what Newcastle have over all the clubs who are outside of the top-seven, is a ton of depth. They finished tenth last season, but averaged a single hair more than one goal per match in the league campaign; that is sure to be remedied this season. Pardew now has the ability to mix and match far more efficiently depending on who he is lining up against, which is a very underrated option to have.
- Pace - If there is one attribute that can define the Premier League’s current existence more than any other, its pace; not just the speed at which the game is being played, but the amount of speed that many players in the league possess. Now at Newcastle, Pardew can allow multiple players to turn on the afterburners; even Moussa Sissoko (likely to feature in central midfield) has pace to burn. Newcastle may deploy in attacking formations, but they are likely to rely on their ability to quickly counter; just ask Liverpool how effective it can be.
- Tim Krul - Many still don’t rate him, but not only can it be argued that he should have been Louis van Gaal’s number one in Brazil this summer, but it can also be postulated that Krul is in fact one of the top keepers in the league. To be fair, he did have a lackluster season at best last term, but then again, so did the entire club. When he is at his best, Krul can steal you points when you have no business fetching any.
- Questionable back-four - When you finish tenth, you’d still like to think that your defense as at least respectable; last season, Newcastle surrendered 58 goals in 38 matches. While it was not the worst in the league, it was by no means solid and you’d still expect better – unfortunately, despite the club bringing in the talents of Daryl Janmaat, questions still remain. Coloccini is experienced and a leader, but his lack of pace is too easily exposed. Mike Williamson had a bit of a renaissance last term, but along side Coloccini, that leaves the Magpies too starved for someone quick on their feet in the middle. Santon is still hit or miss on the defensive end, which leaves just Janmaat as the only truly reliable option in regards to defense. Yanga-Mbiwa came to the club amidst much expectation, but his inability to adapt to the pace of the Premier League hurt him considerably, though he still has the tools to come good; but will he?
- A lack of real quality depth in midfield - Yes the likes of Sissoko and Tiote are no doubt a talented pairing, but how good can Colback and Anita expect to be? Colback is a good player, but his advancement in development will rest on the amount that he plays, and right now, he cannot conceivably start ahead of the aforementioned Sissoko and Tiote. Anita came to Newcastle a good player, but has fallen pray to the inconsistency bug at the club (and really, who hasn’t?). Should catastrophe happen and Tiote or Sissoko go down with a long term injury, can Colback (someone who struggled to routinely feature for Sunderland) or Anita do a consistent job worthy for continued selection in the XI?
- Inconsistency - They’ll either put on a display of pure genius or they’ll make you leave the ground in tears; such is the nature of Newcastle over the last…well…I don’t even know how many years. Once a feared side, especially at St. James’ Park, clubs now look at a home fixture against the Magpies and happily sharpen their swords, while an away day no longer strikes fear into their hearts the way it did when the likes of Alan Shearer was leading the line. Can this team potentially push for a top-seven spot? Yes, but to do so, they’ll have to be consistently good for the duration of the campaign, but with a manger like Alan Pardew on the touchline, that probability is remote at best.
- Poor home form - As just stated, St. James’ Park is no longer feared when you see it on the away fixtures list. Last season, the Magpies registered just eight wins at their ground in nineteen attempts (the other eleven matches broke down as three draws and eight losses). Part of being one of the better sides in the Premier League is solidifying your results at home; consistent, good football in front of the home support that will garner the right results. It is always difficult to go on the road in England, so Newcastle must look to improve their form on Tyneside.
PREDICTED PLACE THIS SEASON: 9th
Given the unsure nature of how Southampton will respond to the mass exodus of the vast majority of the clubs best players, there has been one club removed (in theory) from standing in Newcastle’s way to push for a top seven or top eight finish. Do I think they can somehow finish ahead of Chelsea, Manchester City, Arsenal, Manchester United, Liverpool, Everton or Spurs (and no, that was not a sneak peak at my predictions for the league)? No, absolutely not. Stoke have also done well to solidify themselves this season, and the brutal nature of an away day at the Britannia keeps Stoke ahead of Newcastle in my book.
However, I do think they should still be able to finish in the top half of the table. Their massive reinforcement campaign to address their lack of goals last season should be enough to see them end up in 9th, even if their defense does not improve at all; the addition of 15-20 goals to your side can easily be the difference between four or five results going your way if they other wise would not have, especially at home.
As for Alan Pardew, Mike Ashley and the board are likely to keep him on. The club have not done anything remotely close to begin to challenge the Premier League elite, but a finish anywhere from 8th-10th will still see him the headmaster at the club in the season following.