Newcastle United are safe after taking three points from Queens Park Rangers Sunday, but the down-to-the-wire nature of the campaign has many, including manager Alan Pardew, lamenting the season that might have been. A year after a 65 point, 5th place finish, the Toon are set to finish with a maximum of 44 points, most likely in the back half of the table. What precipitated the fall? Many reasons have already been given: natural regression from an overachieving year, lack of investment during the summer, a congested fixture list, a plethora of injuries, and if those aren't reason enough, there's always the split dressing room narrative to fall back on.
Lack of squad depth lurks behind most of these causes as the underlying issue, a fact that has not escaped Alan Pardew. From an interview published in The Journal Monday:
For us that Europa League is an experience that we’ll be better for. We can take that from this season. It was my first campaign in Europe and I think I made errors – especially at the start, maybe chopping the team too much. We got injuries in that competition and we’ll be better for that if we get in there in a couple of years time. The overriding emotion that I have is that we didn’t have enough quality in depth. If I could put my first XI out every week at this football club I think I’d have a top-eight team, I really do. But I’ve put it out in my opinion, three times. So therefore if we’re going to say ‘OK, maybe a few of our players can’t play a full season – you can’t put it out every week’ we need more strength-in-depth. That area we’ve worked hard on. In the last six months we’ve loaned out our young players so that they progress a bit quicker. We’ve looked to some of our players in terms of giving them extra work to try and improve them and that’s what you can do.
This isn't the part of the article that garnered the most attention - that would be the quote where Pardew expresses happiness that the team has failed to qualify for European competition again. Couple that with his "joke" about not caring about the result of this week's home date with Arsenal, and what we have is a manager with a public relations problem.
Set that aside, if you can, because the important stuff has to do with the upcoming transfer window. Pardew is giving us some huge hints about the priorities of the club. No doubt they will want to keep Fabricio Coloccini, Yohan Cabaye, Hatem Ben Arfa, and Tim Krul around, all of whom have had serious rumors attached to them already. Past that, however, it's clear that Pardew is relatively happy with his first team. I suspect, based on these comments, that the modus operandi will be to add plenty of fringe players with little to no injury history, a departure from recent policy that brought in the likes of Demba Ba and Sylvain Marveaux at cut-rate prices. Could we see a top rate striker brought in to partner with Papiss Cisse? Maybe, but I believe it's more likely we're going to be witnessing the genesis of a youth movement of sorts this summer.