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Transfer Window Looks To Heat Up Early

Rumor-mongering is big business around this time of year for a lot of newspapers, but it looks that instead of waiting until the last week of January, some significant moves could happen right when the windows open.

Clive Mason

I'm not entirely certain how I want to go about this. There are two seemingly solid rumors that have hit the papers with regard to late-stage negotiations between clubs and Newcastle United. I don't suppose on the preponderance of the evidence either one should be particularly surprising, so you probably have already read this in your head.. . but here we go anyway.

It is understood that the Magpies have finally reached an agreement with the Ligue 1 side which will see the right-back head for Tyneside for six million euros (approximately £4.9million), having failed to successfully conclude their pursuit of the player in the summer.

The 27-year-old, a former team-mate of United midfielder Yohan Cabaye, has made no secret of his desire to head for St James' Park, and a resolution to the long-running saga would come as a huge relief to manager Alan Pardew.

Sources in France have indicated that could now happen with the transfer window due to open on Tuesday, and that would come as a timely boost for Pardew after a difficult festive programme.

from the Journal Live

Mathieu Debuchy, apple of our eye over the summer, a player we were told was going to cost well over £5m (I seem to recall a fee of over £8m being insisted upon by Lille at one point) looks to have become another of Mike Ashley's "I won't pay a damn £ more" negotiation policy. I have mixed feelings on this one. Danny Simpson has been... not on top form, shall we say. Mathieu Debuchy in this way is certainly going to be an upgrade. The book on him says that he is very skilled bombing down the right side, good in the air and perhaps at times somewhat suspect on the defensive end. Sort of an older, less Tulisa-involved Danny Simpson with a higher overall achievement level.

I don't think that there are very many out there that are going to be willing to argue that Debuchy is not an upgrade over Danny Simpson. It does, however, set up a worrying situation. Danny Simpson is out of contract this summer, and will certainly not re-sign with the club following a Debuchy arrival. The club then has two options: 1) Get him sold in January (Fulham are now the rumored destination... close to Tulisa) or 2) Lose him on a free this summer. Mike Ashley is not going to be very keen to lose Simpson on a free, I'm certain, so we can assume that if Debuchy signs, #1 will occur.

Here's the thing. If your huge problem over the course of the season that has played out to this point is squad depth, buying a right back to replace a right back and selling the replaced player on doesn't. help. anything. It will mean that we are still in need of a rb/lb player for depth purposes, and at LEAST one viable CB... minimum. Without hyperbole, this squad is so thin and injuries have hit so precisely that our worst-case vision of what this season could be is happening. We have made it to the knockout phase of the Europa League, but at what cost? So many legs with so many miles on them... and you see what happens when a team that is rested plays a team that is in our current situation. Depth MUST be achieved, or we're going to be looking over our shoulder for the rest of the season.

Now for the other major story being reported:

Demba Ba will meet with Chelsea chiefs this evening to discuss a potential January move to Stamford Bridge.

The Newcastle striker leads Chelsea's winter target list even though his transfer fee could be pushed beyond the £10million-mark by extra payments.

Ba’s £7.5m release clause has been well documented with both Arsenal and Liverpool known to be monitoring the 27-year-old’s situation, but now the Sunday People are reporting that the Senegalese’s advisers will demand between £3m and £5m on top of that as part of any deal.

--from the Daily Mail

<takes deep breath>

Ok. First off, I can find only this report from the Mail regarding these meetings. In fact, Rafael Benitez is now claiming that he knows nothing about these alleged talks. While you certainly can't read too much into that, I'm sure, as Roman Abramovich likely can just buy who he wants and make the manager du jour work with it while "not knowing things" about the business of the club is kind of what Rafa does... but it does set up just a tiny bit of reasonable doubt.

It is also being reported that the final sale (as mentioned above) will likely be in the £12m range... at least. While rumors persist with regard to alleged long term suitors such as Arsenal, Tottenham and Liverpool, they make less sense this January than they did over the summer. Incidentally, these clubs are the ones that had fueled my skepticism regarding the "buy out clause" in the first place. If you were running a club, and you needed a striker, would a £7.5m striker with a proven track record in your league turn your eye quicker than spending double-digit £m on players with no track record in your league of scoring goals? You would have to think so.

For the ease of discussion, however, let us assume that this clause does exist or at the very least that Demba Ba will be moved this January. This creates a new whole in the squad and means another acquisition, right? Perhaps yes, perhaps now. Depth wise, it is obviously a solid blow to a position that we don't have superb depth at on our roster (I'm trying to eliminate redundancies in my writing...), we can potentially survive in the absence of serious injury. As I stated in my piece about a supposed agreement to purchase Loic Remy a short time back, I think that a Demba Ba departure will set us up to return to the 4-3-3 on a more consistent basis, and we have the horses to run that (knocks on wood) with the continued health and emergence of one Sylvain Marveaux. Even without a Remy purchase, Sylvain would be an exciting proposition on that left side of a front 3, Cisse would be slid back to the striker position with Hatem Ben Arfa on the right... and you would have resurgent Gabriel Obertan and Jonas Gutierrez (who would usually slot into the midfield three) available as depth if you needed.

I doubt that the recent form of the squad has shocked Mike Ashley into anything.. he's too busy gobbling up House of Fraser to care very much about our wee club in the northeast. If today's news stories come to fruition, however, I think that at the least, we will have achieved a zero-sum gain.