Comings & Goings

Posted: January 20, 2011 in Blogs
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So with the usually unkind hectic festive-season, (becoming usual) FA Cup humiliation and Tyne/Wear derby away leg out of the way with decent league position (and local bragging rights) in tact, attention turns to latter half of the January transfer window, in which the majority of mid-season deals are completed. Before the window opened nearly three weeks ago, new Magpies boss Alan Pardew confirmed that he was looking to strengthen the squad with one or two additions, primarily of the offensive variety (That’s offensive in a tactical sense, not like El-Hadji Diouf):

We are looking at the market and hopefully can bring something in. You want a bit of quality, pace and directness and that is something we would like to add at some stage.

Alan Pardew speaking to Skysports

Striking reinforcements

At the start of the window it looked as though he may be interested in Spurs forgotten man Robbie Keane but a combination of the Irishman’s age, pricetag and excessive wage demands put an end to any interest. Last week saw newly-capped England and Cardiff striker Jay Bothroyd linked on the cheap, with the journeyman’s contract set to expire in six months time. However, both the player and then his club came out to state that he would be staying in Wales, at least until the end of his contract. Pardew’s original desire to add to the squad’s strikers seems to have waned though with the recent improved form of Leon Best and Shola Ameobi.

The Departed

Whilst also reiterating his desire to keep the majority of his squad, the former West Ham and Charlton manager has let it be known that he would be willing to allow some of the squad’s fringe players to leave. Such players rumoured to be in the ‘fringe’ category include the likes of Best, Perch, Campbell and Routledge. However, at the time of writing, only Routledge appears to be headed for the exits, with a loan deal lined up for him to return to the club he left a year ago, Queens Park Rangers. Whilst Routledge is undoubtedly a top-Championship player, he has failed to reproduce his excellent form from last season in the Premier League, adding more doubters and failed top-flight stints to an already lengthy list. A return to QPR would suit both player and club and with Routledge on board, it is very likely that we will see the R’s return to the Premier League in August following a 15-year absence, given their healthy position in the Championship table at present.

Wayne Routledge has failed to reproduce his Championship form in the Premier League

The delay in either club announcing Routledge’s impending transfer has sparked rumours that Newcastle are trying to negotiate a deal that will see former Spurs whizzkid Adel Taarabt coming in the opposite direction. It is, however, highly unlikely that QPR will let their top-scorer and star man leave with promotion within touching distance. The more likely scenario is that Newcastle are simply waiting to find a replacement for the little winger before rubber-stamping his departure.

Routledge Replacements

Confirmation has been forthcoming from a number of sources of our interest in a succession of right-sided wide-players. Firstly David Bentley, whose situation Pardew discussed with Redknapp following the Mags defeat at White Hart Lane in December, yet the former Arsenal trainee opted to move to Birmingham who supposedly agreed to his demand for guaranteed first-team football. Secondly, Seb Larsson, the right-sided midfielder whose contract expires in the summer and whose position is under threat from the aforementioned Bentley. However, Newcastle could not agree personal terms with the Swedish midfielder and have moved on to other targets. This week Shaun Wright-Phillips’ agent confirmed that Newcastle had enquired about the pacy Man City winger, although his wage demands may prove a stumbling block and Fulham appear to be in pole position to land the former Chelsea man. Leeds’ young Ivorian wideman Max Gradel has also been linked with a move to the Mags, but no confirmation has been forthcoming from any party about the reported interest.

The gossip columns have suggested that Pardew may infact opt to purchase a creative central midfielder, allowing Joey Barton to move permanently to the right flank on which he has operated so well this season. Names bandied about include Niko Kranjcar, Jamie O’Hara and Villa’s Stephen Ireland; all of which seem attainable at least.

The forgotten men

Amid all the speculation it is easy to forget that Newcastle have already made one permanent transfer in the current transfer window. The second week of January saw loanee Hatem Ben Arfa complete his permanent transfer to the Mags from Marseille, for a fee reported to be in the region of £6 million. The deal was renegotiated following the player’s leg break in September which meant he would be unable to fulfill the 25-appearance clause that would turn turn the season-long loan deal into a permanent transfer. The talented French whizzkid is on course to return to first team action in February to help Newcastle cement their place in the Premier League. Aside from Ben Arfa, the Mags also have another new player in the squad, despite the fact he signed for the club over 6 months ago.

Hatem Ben Arfa is Newcastle's sole permanent transfer in the transfer window so far.

Dan Gosling signed on a free transfer from Everton last summer following a contract-wrangle with his then-club Everton. However, he has been nursing a cruciate ligament injury since joining the club in July and only recently returned to full training. The box-to-box midfielder made his debut in the closing stages of last week’s Tyne/Wear derby and his return could not have been better timed with the absence of Cheik Tiote through suspension and the loss of Alan Smith for what could be the remainder of the season with an ankle injury.

Summary

It seems that Alan Pardew has rethought his original plan to bolster the striking ranks at the club and has instead focused on midfield and the right-wing in particular. The impending departure of Wayne Routledge will leave us incredibly short of cover for the not-natural right midfielder Joey Barton on the right flank. That is, of course, unless you value either Ryan Taylor or Danny Guthrie as suitable replacements. I don’t. The delay in announcing the Routledge deal hopefully signals that Newcastle have a superior replacement lined up for the right side of midfield, allowing Barton to occupy a more central role from which himself and Ivorian battler Tiote can dictate games. I would like to see us bring in a pacy winger that can take on opposing defenders, beat their man AND put in a decent cross on a consistent basis. These are all attributes that Routledge possesses, yet he cannot seem to implement them either together or consistently.

We have the basis of a good team yet our squad remains poor, as evidenced by our humiliating giant-killing at the hands of League 2 ‘minnows’ Stevenage. In the short term, a good right winger is a must and should be enough to see us through to the end of the season with Premier League status secured. In the longer term, it is imperative that both Joey Barton and Jose Enrique are tied down to the same sort of long-term contracts that have recently been given to the likes of Carroll, Steven Taylor, Williamson and Ranger.

Jose Enrique & Joey Barton are irreplaceable on current form

On current form, it would be incredibly hard, if not impossible to replace either the Scouse schemer or the Spanish Bull. Rumours of clubs wanting both players have surfaced and while Barton’s sentiments of wanting to stay at the club for the remainder of his career seem genuine, it’s hard to see Enrique staying should the rumoured interest from Bayern Munich or Manchester United actually turn out to be true. Enrique’s absence was felt at White Hart Lane in December when he missed the game through injury and deputy James Perch was at fault for Spurs opening goal. Cover for left back is therefore also a priority, although Shane Ferguson and Tamas Kadar may have something to say about that.

At the end of the season, should we survive, we can re-evaluate the situation and move forward. Up front, as good as the recent form of Best and Ameobi has been, it seems that for the club to truly progress, a new partner for Carroll will be needed. Whether that partner can be Nile Ranger remains to be seen.

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