Jeremy Spitzberg

Summer Priorities

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Summer Priorities: Newcastle

Wednesday, July 10, 2013


Newcastle United are not a club to do things the easy way. After a strong 2011-2012 season which saw them finish in the top-half of the table and qualify for the Europa Cup, 2012-2013 was always going to be a dicey proposition from a karmic standpoint.

And boy, did it not disappoint!

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2012-13 Review

The good:

The Europa League run that saw them advance to the quarterfinals, losing to eventual runners-up, Benfica.

The emergence of Tim Krul as one of the better keepers in the league.

Demba Ba's early season run of form that saw him bag 13 goals in all competitions.

Moussa Sissoko's two-goal debut against Chelsea.

The bad:

The decision to play Moussa Sissoko as a second striker for the remainder of the season.

Demba Ba's transfer to Chelsea in January.

Injuries to Newcastle's most creative players, Yohan Cabaye and Hatem Ben Arfa, and keeper Tim Krul.

The ugly:

The loss, or non-emergence, of form from pretty much every midfielder at the club including Cabaye, Vurnon Anita, Gaël Bigirimana, and last season's stand-out Chek Tiote

The Fabricio Coloccini saga in which the club captain and defensive linchpin announced that he wanted to leave the club in January for personal reasons but was unable to find a buyer.

A four month streak of league matches, from Novemeber through February, where the only wins were against the eventually relegated duo of QPR and Wigan.

THAT tackle on Massadio Haïdara.

0-3 to bitter rivals Sunderland.

Following that up with 0-6 against Liverpool.

Rising

Davide Santon - Santon established himself at full back this season and looks a good bet to continue to grow in the role.

Robbie Elliot - Proved a capable understudy for Tim Krul when called upon.

Otherwise, we're just going to skip this section and move on to...

Declining

...where we will avoid the tempation to lump in the entire squad. Special notice must be paid to:

Vurnon Anita - Newcastle's big money (relatively) signing from Ajax did not establish himself at the club, who needed a defensive midfield presence in Tiote's absence (and sometimes his presence).

Chek Tiote - As noted above, after a strong start to his Newcastle career, Tiote took a huge step backwards. He missed time for the Africa Cup of Nations, but even when he was present he didn't offer the same energy and bite that the club so desperately needed.

Priorities

With all that said, are Newcastle in such dire straits? Might the karmic wheel spin around again, this time in their favor?

Like many clubs, Newcastle's priorities start with keeping their current players. Fabricio Coloccini has pledged his future to the club again after wanting to return to Argentina. However Hatem Ben Arfa and Yohan Cabaye continue to be linked to other clubs, such as PSG and Manchester United, respectively.

If they can get and stay healthy, and keep their current squad intact, Newcastle are in half decent shape. They clearly need strikers to share the scoring burden with Papiss Cisse. But you can imagine that they would be competitive with the current squad playing at their collective best.

The worry, of course, is that this won't happen. And this summer's appointment of Joe Kinnear as Director of Football has thrown a huge spanner into the club's workings. The volatility it has created threatens to upset the whole club, and to dismantle the scouting network that brought so many good players into the team.

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Shopping List

Striker - Loic Remy and/or Darren Bent seem to be the most likely candidates. Either would bring Premier League experience and a good goal record to the club. I do wonder if Bent's Sunderland history will keep him from being brought in, and if he does join, will he ever be accepted by the diehard fans.

Center back - If Steven Taylor is indeed a piece of a deal for Loic Remy, then center back becomes a priority for Newcastle. To that end, they have been consistently linked to West Ham United's James Tomkins.

Replacements for exiting stars - This is a great unknown, but they cannot afford to not replace Cabaye or Ben Arfa should they leave. That won't be easy, or cheap. The worst-case scenario for the club is to find those players leaving too late in the transfer window to be adequately replaced. Joe Kinnear will have his work cut out for him to not allow that to happen, or to successfully manage the situation if it does.



Jeremy Spitzberg writes about fantasy soccer (football) and is a Rotoworld contributor. You can find him on Twitter @JSpitzberg.
Email :Jeremy Spitzberg



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