The 2011 summer transfer window is over. For many Newcastle supporters, that means that a new season has set in: The Angry Season.™ I'm not going to try to take that away from anybody, but I do want to suggest that there is room for optimism.
There are many ways to review a transfer window, and we're going to try to address as many of them as possible. Over the next few days we'll be evaluating each of our new additions more thoroughly. We're also going to look at the finances, think about what the Starting XI should look like going forward, and we'll go ahead and look forward to the January window. For now, though, I want to address the mood of the room.
I've maintained throughout the summer that unless at least two quality strikers were brought in, the transfer window could not be considered a success. I stand by that. Alan Pardew was only able to bring in one forward, and his quality is still somewhat up in the air at this point. The entire football world has known ever since January 31 that Newcastle needed a striker, and on September 1, they still do not have one. That is not okay
Strangely, though, I'm not upset. Okay, I'm upset, but I'm not spitting mad or anything. I would have loved to see Bryan Ruiz spurn Fulham at the last second and bolt for Newcastle. For that matter, I would have been happy bringing Connor Wickham, Mevlut Erding, Gervinho, Teteh Bangura, or any of the other dozens of goal scorers connected to Newcastle over the last seven months on board.
However, I'm not ready to call the entire window a failure. The reason why is simple: Alan Pardew is building a team that will play a rough and tumble defensive style of football. Perhaps somewhere down the line he will find a prolific goal scorer, but right now it seems as though he is content trying to win games by keeping the final score down.
This team, as currently constructed, has a very strong core up the middle. The triumvirate of Cheik Tiote, Steven Taylor, and Fabricio Coloccini can keep traffic out of Tim Krul's sightlines and force the ball to the wings, and then they are capable of dealing with the resulting crosses. New signings Yohan Cabaye, Davide Santon, Gabriel Obertan, and Sylvain Marveaux (all strong contenders for the first team, if not automatic selections) are all in a place to support that core and allow them to do their jobs without having to worry about compensating for someone else's deficiencies. Looking at Pardew's game plan from the last three league games, it's clear that this has been his plan all along. Build around existing strengths and adjust the tactics accordingly. Absorb pressure in the middle and send it out to the wings. Counter attack when a hole presents itself.
Would that system work better with a world-class striker? Of course. But this team has been crafted with the idea that maybe one wasn't forthcoming. In other words, the Toon aren't completely screwed because they didn't get their man. That eventuality was written into the script. Newcastle are going to grind out games this fall. They will probably play some ugly football on the road. But it will be effective, because Alan Pardew spent the entire summer buying players that could play winning football in a system that doesn't possess a true #9.
I'm mad at Mike Ashley and Derek Llambias for not reinvesting the 35 million quid like they promised (whether or not that money has actually gone to wages or whatever else is another discussion for another day). But I'm not mad to the point of making self-righteous speeches about being lied to. This isn't one of those scoldings where I tell everybody to get in line or they're not real supporters, but I do cringe a bit at the vitriol that's so easily spewed at the drop of a hat. The fact is, most of the Toon Army knew deep down that they would probably arrive at this date with some disappointment. It's natural and expected. I'm not comfortable with that, but I think I have learned to live with it. Mike Ashley is not going to "splash the cash," so maybe Alan Pardew is right when he says we should adjust our expectations accordingly.
Let me try to end this on a high note. After all, I have been told by at least a couple of supporters that I'm too optimistic, as if that were a crime against humanity. Newcastle don't have anybody capable of wearing the #9 shirt at this moment. It's easy to be so blinded by our bias toward the present that we can't possibly foresee a circumstance where that changes, but it will. It won't be tomorrow, and it may not even be in January, but one day a new hero will emerge. I'm confident of that.
Until then, I'm excited about a future that includes Davide Santon and Gabriel Obertan, even if much of the footballing world has given up on each of them before either has hit their 23rd birthday. I'm excited to see what Yohan Cabaye can bring to the table when (if?) he's able to play alongside Hatem Ben Arfa. Most of all, I'm excited that this is a club with a plan, even if that plan isn't immediately evident and isn't always properly executed. It's better to plan and fail than to swing wildly and succeed once in a great while.
Newcastle United Transfer Window 2011