The latest rumours emanating from Tyneside suggest that Newcastle are considering a change in their much publicised transfer strategy. Reports have linked the Magpies with the likes of Jack Colback, Jonjo Shelvey and Robert Snodgrass as the club are believed to be in pursuit of a predominantly British set of transfer targets.
Is the era of Graham Carr’s cheap, predominantly French, players really over? And is a wholesale shift in the transfer policy really necessary?
After a horrific run of results in the Premier League since the turn of the year, the quality of the squad has been exposed in a number of areas and a fairly substantial level of investment is required in the summer. But with Mike Ashley too busy counting the last few pennies sat in his pocket from the Yohan Cabaye sale, the Toon Army will be ultimately be lucky to see any money spent at all, let alone the amount required to allow the club to progress.
Many Newcastle fans have expressed their disappointment on various outlets with the rumours linking the club to Colback and Shelvey. Granted, they obviously wouldn’t be marquee signings. But when was the last time Newcastle made one of those?
Both of these players have proven their merits in the Premier League and are young enough to still develop on Tyneside. Colback may be an enemy right now but the industrious central midfielder would add a versatile option to the squad and more importantly, the Englishman is available on a free transfer. Since leaving Liverpool in the summer, Shelvey has been one of the few positives in a disappointing domestic campaign for Swansea. The tenacious midfielder has notched six goals and six assists and would surely help fill the creative void left by Cabaye.
The mass influx of Frenchmen in January 2013 eventually saved Newcastle from being relegated once more but it demonstrated the struggles for foreign players to adapting in the Premier League. With an all-British focus, the club wouldn’t have to worry about any lengthy settling in period that could potentially derail an entire campaign.
But the prices on the domestic market are vastly more inflated than their European counterparts, especially for a club as financially prudent as Ashley’s Newcastle. In the same summer the Magpies acquired Cabaye for approximately £4.4 million, Liverpool splashed £20 million on Jordan Henderson. Newcastle will struggle to find the value for money which they have at times found on the continent.
The French contingent at the club have been criticised in recent times as the team have delivered countless lacklustre performances. But in a similar situation to David Moyes’ ill-fated reign at Manchester United, Alan Pardew is failing miserably in getting the best out of a talented group of players. The fact that Hatem Ben Arfa wasn’t even selected in the squad to face Arsenal on Monday night epitomises the manager’s incapability of getting the best out of his current squad.
Mathieu Debuchy and Moussa Sissoko are World Cup bound French internationals that were acquired for relatively modest sums. Yoann Gouffran has netted six times in the league this season from out wide and was signed for under £1million. Value for money is out there on the continent and with Graham Carr still committed to the club, there is always the potential for more impressive bargain signings.
Of course, there is always a risk when buying on a budget from Europe. For every Cabaye, there will always be a Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa. The former Montpellier captain was heralded as a great acquisition upon his arrival last year but has failed to make an impression at the club, slipping behind Mike Williamson in the pecking order.
But that doesn’t mean the club should wholly abandon a transfer policy which has delivered a number of recent successes.
Rather than buying all-British or all-French, surely the club should look to secure the best of both worlds? Why not supplement a squad in desperate need of an overhaul with proven Premier League performers and talent from the continent? If Ashley chooses to invest just a fraction of the millions available at the club, a blend of both is surely the way forward, rather than just one or the other.