Newcastle United are approaching a crucial stage of the transfer window as the September 3rd deadline looms ever closer. Joe Kinnear’s appointment as director of football may caused a lot of furore and a media circus following his every move, but he appears to have been given a simple mandate from the board. This is to sign one more elite striker alongside the capture of Loic Remy on loan to ensure Magpies will once again be a force to be reckoned with in the Premier League.
All the noises regarding the club’s transfer policy suggest that they believe that if Kinnear delivers Alan Pardew the necessary firepower in the striking department the foundations will be fully laid for the club to succeed. Is this though a short sighted approach which is set to once again leave Pardew in the position where he does not have the necessary tools to succeed?
I certainly find this argument one that is hard to ignore. It would be foolish to claim that Newcastle are not crying out for another centre forward. They are in desperate need of an addition to what they have even with the arrival of Remy, but the buck can’t stop there. The reason why Alan Pardew came under such heavy fire from the regulars at St James’s Park last term was that style of play he was delivering on match days was below par. It is clear that bringing in even two new strikers won’t suddenly fix this problem.
The arrival of new centre forwards in theory would provide the manager the flexibility to be able to change the system of last season from the ailing 4-2-3-1 to a traditional 4-4-2. This switch in tactics could help the club be tactically astute and reach the upper echelons of the Premier League once more, as they could avoid the problems they encountered last season. The formation rolled out last term saw key performers being played out of position and therefore they were simply not delivering to their full potential. The addition of a forward to Papiss Cisse will enable the Tyneside club to get the best out of their number 9 who was extremely isolated at times last season, but it won’t cure the inherent problem the Magpies will face with any system they try to play, if they only bolster their forward line.
The whole starting XI were caught out by their opposition last season due to the fact that their full backs and wingers failed to help the ensure the team could press higher up the pitch rather than be constantly penned in their own half. The only way to fix this problem is for the club to sign wingers capable of adding the pace and creativity out wide so Newcastle can use their wide players as an outlet to unlock the attacking potential that clearly exists through the whole starting line up.
In Santon and Debuchy there is without doubt the potential for Newcastle to create expansive play starting from the full backs but these defenders currently aren’t in a position to be able to utilise their attacking flair. Whenever, either of those players marauder forward they soon find themselves exposed because of the direct style of play currently on offer at St James’s Park. Newcastle’s best full back pairing became diluted as players because they didn’t make as many incisive runs forward as they knew that they would simply not be supported in trying to hurt sides down the wings. It may seem a bizarre claim to make from a neutral perspective because on paper there appears to be an abundance of talent on the flanks with Gouffran, Ben Arfa, Gutierrez and Marveaux. All these players however, are not traditional wingers in the sense that they like to drift into a central role in one form or another.The added issue on top of this is that Ben Arfa is the only player out of those wingers seen as having the craft and attacking instinct that can truly hurt opposition.
The knock on effect of this is that Cisse and now Remy simply can’t score any cheap headers from crosses that are a staple part of a centre forward’s diet and any threat from set pieces is also negated. Newcastle have not scored from a set piece in competitive action since a dubious Demba Ba handled finish against Reading at the beginning of the 2012/13 season. It is no coincidence that within this period that the team has desperately starved itself of any threat from the wings. It is crippling Newcastle’s long term chances of success.
This message is not lost on Newcastle’s first opponents Man City who signed Jesus Navas as a solution to being caught too narrow last season, and the Magpies would do well to take a leaf out of their book. There may be a constant hysteria all the way up to and even on deadline day as to whether Newcastle get that centre forward “over the line” but it could all be in vain if the striker is not provided with a sufficient platform to flourish.