Mike Ashley has stood by his manager and facilitated the arrival of five new first-team players to St James’ Park this January. But Newcastle aren’t out of the woods yet. While it’s always exciting to see a wave of new names through the door and the hope they may bring for something a little brighter in the immediate future, these next few months until the end of the season are absolutely crucial for the stability of the club moving forward.
There was never any excuse for Mike Ashley not to significantly strengthen the squad last summer, unless, of course, he was more than happy with the fifth place Premier League finish last season and was content to sit back on it. Even if it’s a myth, the dreaded ‘second season syndrome,’ relatively speaking, was looming and about to hit Newcastle and Alan Pardew hard. The injuries didn’t help either, but the squad needed freshening up in a big way.
The problem with all these new arrivals is that you’re normally accustomed to seeing such an obvious change during the summer, not in January when a team are so precariously placed. Newcastle may go down, and it’s certainly not impossible, but unlike others who are in or around the relegation scrap, Newcastle do have the means to make a convincing escape.
But how much of an impact can the new signings make? None of them are Premier League experienced, and despite being players of sufficient quality to help Newcastle in the long-term, the priority will be to get them well up to speed with what’s expected of them in English football. Moreover, such a swing in playing personnel is likely to affect both the newcomers and those already in Newcastle shirts.
Newcastle are sitting in 15th place and have a very difficult tie at home to Chelsea on the weekend, followed by Tottenham away. Between now and May, it isn’t about finishing as high as possible, it’s very much about remaining in the Premier League and having this new squad prepared for a strong season beginning in August.
The lack of notable buys in the summer has made this season a write-off, but that’s football. You can’t expect to bring similar results in back-to-back campaigns after very little spend while everyone else is making noticeable improvements to their squad. That view applies to one or two others in the league as well, but this should be seen as a learning curve for Newcastle and Mike Ashley especially. He’s done a good job of digging himself out of a hole when all the good work of last season was looking to be undone. Yes the club finished fifth last season and above Chelsea, but what good is it if the following season sees shredded nerves, the high probability of relegation and near total capitulation?
It’s also worth pointing out that selling clubs are not ‘catching onto’ Newcastle’s prudent but effective ways in the transfer market, as has been suggested in the past. Yes, a lot of clubs around Europe might have noticed Newcastle’s smart approach in recent windows, but that doesn’t mean there hasn’t always been and will continue to be bargains available. Moussa Sissoko and Mathieu Debuchy are just a couple of names who would have done very well at clubs further up the table in the Premier League, and yet Newcastle picked them up for next to nothing. They’ll undoubtedly improve the squad and give the club the option to make profits via the sale of others.
It’s all down to Alan Pardew now, however. He’s been given the tools, albeit a bit late in the day, and now has to create a working atmosphere between the growing French contingent and the rest of his players.
If survival can be ensured, this could prove to be a very threatening and attractive Newcastle side next season. A team with quality all over the pitch and who are ready to launch out of the gates in August, as opposed to sometime down the line when the alarm bells ring.