Newcastle's "Paper The Cracks" Plan Has Left Fans With A Sense Of Dread
A trip to Alan Pardew's old stomping ground of Southampton is traditionally a fixture that fills most Newcastle supporters with little more than an impending sense of dread.
Despite the daunting prospect of a near 700 mile round trip, there's the fact that the Magpies have won just twice there in 20 visits over the last 30 years, the last victory coming 10 years ago when Graeme Souness had just taken charge. Saturday's visit to St.Mary's looks to be no less depressing, with Newcastle still looking for a first win of the season and the 9 additions to the squad payroll yet to make any difference to last season's miserable decline. A decline brought about quite clearly by the teams distinct lack of ability to either create, or score goals without the aid of Yohan Cabaye and Loic Remy, two players now plying their trades at different clubs.
Now, to the casual observer it may appear that Newcastle United were one of the Premier League's more active players in the transfer market this close season. That maybe, reliably stingy club owner, Mike Ashley, had made a semi-serious attempt to bring some much needed strengthening to his ever depleting squad. But on closer inspection it's beginning to look as if the papering over of old cracks is all that has been attempted, let alone achieved.
Of the nine players brought in during the transfer window only five of those seem to be genuine first team additions, of those five just one, Jack Colback, has previous premier league experience. Emmanuele Riviere and Siem De Jong have been bought to fill the gaps left by Remy and Cabaye respectively. However, former Ajax captain De Jong, first appearing well off the pace of the Premiere League, is now ruled out with injury until Christmas. And, Riviere, a striker who scored just 17 goals in 50 appearances for Monaco, seems worth little more than his £4m transfer fee suggested, and hardly looks the man to fill the ever deepening void at the front of the Magpies attack. Couple that with the fact that the surprise departure of Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa on loan to Roma has left the squad with just three recognised central defenders, and Mike Ashley's 'paper the cracks' transfer strategy appears to be unravelling rapidly.
One glimmer of hope in the Newcastle squad this season was the emergence of Rolando Aarons. The 18 year-old winger promoted from the academy has received many plaudits after an impressive pre-season, followed by a goal and assist in the last league game against Crystal Palace. Plaudits that brought him a call up to the England under 20's set up, only to return carrying an injury set to sideline him for an as yet unspecified time. A blow to Pardew's attacking options, coming just a week after loaning out the most undoubted talent in the squad, Hatem Ben Arfa, in the hope of achieving some much needed squad harmony. While at the same time enraging an already disillusioned fan base, to whom Ben Arfa was a firm favourite.
Pardew must be wondering if his luck is running as low as his popularity with the toon faithful. And if it is luck he's looking for, then he couldn't do much worse than look for it in Southampton, where Ronald Koeman's men are looking for their first home victory of the season, against a team they've beaten 13 times in their last 20 home games.
It's not going to be fun.