The dark cloud has certainly been lifted around St.James’s Park for Newcastle in recent weeks as the French contingent have added a little Je ne sais quoi to the team, or as normal people would quantify it, strong performances and results.
The feel good factor has be tangible in the North East as the supporters have really warmed to the influx of new signings, doing all they can to welcome them in. This culminated in the club hosting a “French Day” for the Southampton match on Sunday to celebrate the much needed arrival of the five January signings. Is this though just a red herring? Is it deluding the fans that Ashley is planning a brighter future for Newcastle that isn’t coming?
I would not count against it. The squad may finally be plumped up to a respectable size to cope with the pressure of the Europa League and Premier League but will this be enough for next season too. The answer to that is a unanimous no before we even consider that some players may depart. It may seem premature to start bursting the balloon on Tyneside but the foundations of the squad can be torn down as easily as a Jenga tower.
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Alan Pardew readily admitted that his side are far too dependent on the performances of a select few and this could unhinge the Starting XI all too quickly. The waters may remain calm now but they will soon become stormy for the former Southampton boss when the Coloccini issue rears its ugly head again in the summer. The club captain has stated his desire to move back to his native Argentina and there is the suspicion that the board have already sanctioned the centre back the move he craves. If he were to depart he would leave a gaping hole in the defence. This though has been expected and the embedding of Yanga Mbiwa six months before schedule has softened this inevitable blow.
It would though leave the captaincy issue wide open and the Magpies looking for a leader within the team. This may have not been spoken of explicitly but those in the know in the North East believe there is only one candidate for the captaincy should Coloccini leave. Yohan Cabaye. The French international midfielder is pivotal to the future of Newcastle United and whilst some may venture out to say that Ben Arfa is the most talented in the squad he is far more dispensable than the ex Lille star. This transition may not be able to happen with his future the source of constant speculation. If he were to leave it could render the 2013/14 campaign irreparable. It would without doubt reignite the fractious relationship between fans and board which has laid low for the majority of the past two campaigns. The prospect of this occurring is not improbable either which is a huge concern for all those in Black and White. It is a topic which never fails to be mentioned each time supporters enter the turnstiles at St James’s Park nowadays.
A lot of focus has been on how Newcastle need to replace Demba Ba in the summer once and for all after missing out on Loic Remy in January. There has been a heavy emphasis on how the recruitment drive needs to continue come the 1st July. This is very important for the continued success of the club, but it is not the main issue currently debated on matchday. The fans are under no illusions. They know all talk about future transfers is pointless if they fail to ensure their leading French midfielder Cabaye stays on Tyneside this summer.
The resolve of Mike Ashley has not been sternly tested for a long time and it is thought it finally will be in the summer. A bid from one of the Europe’s big club’s is believed to be in the offing for Yohan Cabaye and all eyes are on the Newcastle owner once again. At times the supporters even start to forget he is a businessman. Next season their memories will soon be jogged when they see Wonga emblazoned on the new club strip and it could get a whole lot worse. When the last big money bid came in for Andy Carroll it all made perfect sense as the player was worth nowhere near £35 million. He was also carrying an injury so his value would have only depreciated in the next window. He also wasn’t going to play much more that campaign as he proved when various knocks saw him barely play for the first half season he was at Liverpool. This left Newcastle with a whole summer to find a striker to fill his role. The loss of Cabaye would be completely different.
The new resolve and spirit of recent times at St James’s Park has been built around the incision of the 27 year old who is now fully in his prime. The lure to move him on for a profit will be huge for Mike Ashley but the supporters have been chanting “don’t sell Cabaye” all this term with good reason. Those who followed the Magpies last season could have been fooled that Cheick Tiote and Newcastle’s number six had a similar impact on the starting XI. This campaign in Cabaye’s absence the team has floundered as Tiote’s inefficiencies have been heavily exploited. This is by no coincidence. The arrival of Moussa Sissoko may have been a very astute purchase but make no mistake nobody in the Newcastle squad currently can play the role that Yohan Cabaye does. If Ashley decides to cash in and give Pardew a pittance to sign a botch up job it simply won’t do.
Despite an early season wobble there is confidence Newcastle have done enough to reach safety in the Premier League this time round. There is now hope the side can finally push on and reach their potential. This is dependent though on whether Ashley fails his latest test of mettle and sells Cabaye in the summer. If he does then a precedent of what happens to the team’s stars when they reach their peak will have been set. This will be the point where there will have to be an admittance that survival is all the fans can hope for. If Cabaye stays then the Magpies may be capable of springing a surprise once again and reach the top 6 in the 2013/14 season.