After what could only be framed as a successful Summer transfer period strengthening points of weakness, Mike Ashley seemed determined to do the same in January. Seemed is the key word as the owner of Newcastle United has certainly backed up his words from the final days of last season:
“We may have the cart financially but we are now going to bolt the horse on. And we’re going to.”
But the question really must be raised, has he spent wisely this January, or is he simply trying to impress supporters by throwing money at attacking players we do not need?
Yes, I speak of Florian Thauvin, purchased recklessly for £14m only to “feature” in 16 games across league and cups then be loaned back to Marseille?!
Now don’t mistake my words, I do want Mike Ashley to spend money, but I want it to be to strengthen weaknesses we have first and foremost. This is a process, we will not simply shoot right to the top four by spending a hundred million pounds on flashy players that cannot defend or finish.
Henri Saivet – Midfielder – £4.5m – Bordeaux – A once talented wide player who has more recently developed into a holding midfielder that can still place a pass. A type of depth purchase that makes me happy. When he was signed I went straight to the source for opinion on the Senagalese born Saivet:
“[A] really good signing I think. Strong and physical so should be able to adapt to [Premier League] quickly (unlike eg. Cabella, Thauvin). [He’s] converted in last 18 months into a defensive midfielder and has been a revelation, protecting defence. But as he used to be a winger/attacker, he is also comfortable with the ball and can distribute well too. Was Bordeaux captain, so leadership qualities too.”
– Quote from @jeremysmith98 respected Ligue 1 expert Jeremy Smith.
Words like these should have pleased so may Newcastle supporters who constantly rant about Jack Colback’s inabilities. Instead it seemed the purchase was greeted with a collective “meh” by supporters.
The New Crop
JonJo Shelvey – Midfielder – £12m – Swansea – The purchase of the Nosferatu stand-in was lauded by supporters as a master stroke. Of course there is the English thing, but there has to be more to it no? Personally I’ve felt he has been overrated since coming up the ranks within the Liverpool system but having two close friends and an older brother that are Liverpool supporters tends to make me biased. Although clearly a talented passer of the ball, with 4 assists and an 84% passing rate in 18 league matches for both Swansea and Newcastle, he isn’t especially fast or defensively sound.
I personally would like to see a central midfielder average more then .09 successful tackles per match, not to mention he hasn’t blocked a shot since joining us. But he is only 23 years of age, and already has loads of experience in the Premier League so if we can keep him happy and healthy the upside is yet to come.
Andros Townsend – Attacking Midfielder (wide) – £12m – Spurs – Another purchase of a young English international with upside, but the question as with Shelvey is did we overpay? Of course, yes, English players come at a premium these days in the PL. In 42 PL matches with Tottenham the youngster has scored 3 goals and tallied another 4 assists. He certainly was a handful for defenders during the 2013-14 season but suffered a serious ligament injury at the end of that season. The following year he only managed to get on the pitch for 17 games, and only played more then 70 minutes twice! So yes, obviously we needed to add width to our squad, but do we risk £12m on a player who has had only one truly successful season in the Premier League?
One can argue that he is too young and we should reserve judgement but to that I say balderdash! Not because that isn’t a fair statement but because I ask can we afford to take a risk like that currently? (And because I like to say balderdash!)
Seydou Doumbia (Loan w/ option) – Centre Forward – Loan fee of £750k – AS Roma – It was definitely clear we needed a centre forward who could consistently bag goals as Aleksandar Mitrovic is going to be adjusting to the Premier League for at least the rest of the season. With Papiss Cisse injured and Hair Island, I mean Steve McClaren, seemingly not content to let Ayoze Perez try his luck up top alone we needed another experienced target man. However, to loan in a player who’s success has mainly come while playing in the Swiss Super Liga and Russian Premier Liga, strikes me as another risky signing.
Meanwhile not breaking the bank for experienced PL goal scorers Charlie Austin and Saido Berahino? It doesn’t seem like smart business to me. ‘What of his goal scoring success in the Champions League’ you say? We should really take a deeper look into that success though, shouldn’t we?
In 2011/12 he twice scored a brace against Lille and Trabzonspor and also scored once against the stiffer competition of Inter. In 2013 he scored a double against a Manchester City squad who clearly couldn’t be arsed with defending as they were busy scoring 5 goals. He again scored 3 goals for CSKA Moscow against City but remember this was the embarrassing CL season for the Sky Blues.
This isn’t to say that he couldn’t be a quality contributor but when you have 21 year old Saido Berahino, who scored 14 goals last season, just waiting for you to come and rescue him from Tony Pulis’ turgid strategies…….I know what I would have preferred.
What about Charlie Austin? Scorer of 18 goals in the 2014-15 Premier League season. He dominated the Championship with 10 goals in 16 matches for QPR and has already scored once for Southampton. He moved to Southampton for a paltry £4m! Yes, yes, to be fair we have no clue if Queens Park Rangers would have allowed him to move to Tyneside for the same cut rate price. But even if we would have paid twice that price, how could we not offer that up?
Oh, and lest we forget… surely we could have purchased a central defender with some Premier League experience!? We have allowed the most shots per game in the league (15.8) and third most goals with 44! With the recent injury crises at the back we could have done with another experienced centre back. I mean our third best central defender is arguably our best left back, Welsh International Paul Dummett.
Clearly time will tell if these purchases will be enough to keep us up, as of this writing it honestly does not look good. Despite our 1-0 win against West Brom on Saturday we still are only one point from the drop zone and only four points above Sunderland. We have a goal differential of -18 and if it comes down to the final match of the season that is of obvious importance. It is worrisome that a club seemingly loaded with offensive weapons can’t collect more then 26 goals in 25 matches. Even more worrisome is that one player, Georginio Wijnaldum has contributed 35% of those goals.
In any venture consistency is the key, and Newcastle have been anything but consistent. Our longest stretch of success was two wins, against Liverpool and Spurs, and a draw against Aston Villa. Now if that doesn’t scream inconsistent I can’t help you. So Mike Ashley can spend all the money he wants but when he spends £14m on players like Florian Thauvin then loaning him out? I just think we should be very careful about what we wish for in the future……..because we just may get it.