Our end-of-season roundtable continues today with quite a bit more disagreement among the contributors than we saw in Part 1. Look for the final installment tomorrow.
4. What went wrong this season? Try to narrow down to 1 or 2 problems.
Callum Kane: Well the fact we can't win away, except from against two teams that are around us. You shouldn't really be able to stay in the league with just two away wins in a season. If the league was better, we would have gone down. The substitutions as well have played a part. They seem to get worse and worse each match.
Alan Hoffmann: Alan Pardew talked about it, and I'm inclined to agree with him: injuries. This club saw a lot of significant injuries this year. Colocinni missed a significant portion down the stretch, but when he came back it was clearly evident how much he meant to our back line. Hatem Ben Arfa missed a lot of games. It was hard for players to get into a rhythm on the pitch. I'm sure some will point to tactical errors, but when your best players aren't on the pitch, it's going to be hard to get results. Compounding that was the European schedule. An injury-plagued squad adding 14 more games wasn't going to help.
Jim McMeachin: If we're to believe some media reports (and there is some amount of empirical evidence to support them), I think that the first thing you can trace this year's failings to is the supposed "let the kids play" edict. It has been the stated goal of the club to eventually hit a point where they are developing their own talent instead of paying for players during the transfer windows - but the thing is (as it is with any youth movement in any sport) if you rush them, you stand a much larger possibility of ruining them along with any progress toward the stated goal that you may have achieved. This then becomes part and parcel with the lack of reinforcing the squad over the summer. It was pretty clear to anyone who was looking at the squad prior to the season that we had some serious issues to address. Some issues showed themselves later in the season following the sale of Demba Ba. Ba had the ability to compensate for the lack of support play that troubled Cissé when he was given the reins, so I guess you could trace that back as a "what went wrong" as well. I guess any way you roll it up, it comes down to not reinforcing the squad during the summer when new players could have been more seamlessly integrated into some semblance of tactics.
John Murphy: So, I know a lot of people are going to say injuries. Decent enough answer. Lots of people are going to say the increased schedule load. They're not wrong. But for me, what went WRONG? Our skipper situation went wrong. Rewind to late December. Newcastle have been struggling. Ashley and Padrew make a pointed note that during the winter window, they will commit. What should this mean for the team? Persistence, belief, reliance, and passion. What DOES this mean to the team? A re-emergence of Simpson's contract issues, the nearly immediate departure of Demba Ba, and, most importantly, the plea from our captain to jump ship. Look, I LOVE Colocinni, and I think he has done an overall awesome job as our skipper... but, seriously... W.T.F? The message that was sent was a loud and clear middle finger to the Newcastle organization and their faithful, and this all coming from the man who was entrusted with our armband. In the grand scheme of the season, obviously injuries and schedule are going to be the things that held us back, but I know everyone else is going to answer with that. Colo's shenanigans could not have possibly come at a worse time, and it reverberated messages of flakiness, weakness, and selfishness throughout the club.
Robert Bishop: To me it comes down to failure to invest in the club over the summer. Injuries and fixture congestion are real things, but they are also code words for a lack of depth. Newcastle's schedule will not be as crowded next season, but Pardew and company would do well to prepare for unforeseen circumstances (injury, last second sales, etc) by buying ahead of time. I'd love to put the "All transfers a window late" meme to rest.
5. What went right? What are the building blocks of this team moving forward?
Callum: I'm not really sure anything went right if i'm honest with you. Last season we had the rub of the green, this season we never. For me bar Rob Elliot there was no positives.
Alan: I think there are some solid building blocks from our attacking players. Cisse is still dangerous. Sissoko will be a welcome addition back. If we can hold on to HBA, that will be nice. Tim Krul should be back next season (or will command a hefty transfer fee) so there are some solid players. A big part of that is 1) keeping those players healthy and 2) utilizing them correctly. Cisse, while dangerous, is not the same player that Demba Ba is, and yet Pardew didn't do anything differently for him once Ba was sold to Chelsea. We need someone up front with him to maximize his potential.
Jim: We didn't get relegated.
John: Our right back (Debuchy) and left back (Santon) are one hell of combo when healthy. They can be phenomenal flankers for years to come. I also think that Cisse can get comfortable in a solo role iff (which, for the less mathematically inclined, means if, and only if) he is provided the proper support from the midfield and the flanks. I also think Cabaye as the "real" skipper moving forward might be a good decision, as he is currently 1) Our best player and 2) TOTALLY committed to the club.
Robert: The January transfer window was right. That kind of business is what we need to see every window from now into eternity. The core of this team is Tim Krul and Fabricio Coloccini. If both stay, they are the foundation moving forward. The rest are replaceable.
6. Who was your player of the season?
Callum: If I'm allowed to say him, it's Demba Ba, if not Rob Elliot.
Alan: Hard to argue against Tim Krul. He's once again proven to be one of the best keepers in the Premier League. I think there's a reason why some Italian clubs are very keen on trying to sign him. He was solid when in net, and gave us a sense of security. I hope he's back 100% come July.
Jim: I guess Jose Bosingwa isn't an acceptable answer here? It's a difficult thing to say who should be player of the year. You can take a very micro view of it and say that Fabricio Coloccini should get the nod here based on how he came back into the side and steadied a sinking defense to ensure we stayed up... but circumstance aside, there is that whole unsettling thing that happened when he tried to orchestrate a move home, so maybe these cancel each other out? A more macro sort of view maybe leads you to Tim Krul, I guess... except that we were third worst in goals against - granted some of that is attributable to Rob Elliot, but even still, Tim was not this year what he was last year by any stretch of the imagination. I guess maybe I take a middling view - there is a player who consistently in the last half of the season was by far our best player match in, match out. After Moussa Sissoko blasted onto the scene as a massively effective (if only temporarily) CAM and subsequently burned out a bit, Yoan Gouffran easily became our best player - and as he managed to do so over the course of almost half of the season, he gets my nod. He may have been the backup plan to one or another different transfer target, but his effort and skill brought at least some semblance of spark to an offensive unit that was struggling for any sort of idea following the sale of Demba Ba (and let's be honest, our main idea when Demba was around was to kick it at him and let him create something.. or not... as the case may have been). Honorable mention for me goes to Sylvain Marveaux - another player that at least brought some idea and invention into the squad when Pardew finally saw fit to use him.
John: Though I just sang Cabaye's praises as the current "man" at NUFC, my player of the season has to be Santon. When Enrique left, Newcastle lost one of the best left backs in Europe (sounds like hyperbole, but it's true). Left back, as opposed to say, center mid, is a position that is difficult to fill and scout for. Santon has taken a leap this year in aggressiveness, leadership, and creativity. He has remained mostly stalwart on the back line, while providing us MUCH needed inspiration in lieu of HBA and Ba. I definitely think Santon went from "pretty damn good" to "awesome" this season, and I would just like to reiterate that the flanks of Newcastle's back line are in good shape for years to come.
Robert: Papiss Cisse. We tend to remember the negatives, like the countless offside calls or the overreported scoring drought. He was essentially the club's only reliable scorer for five months, and he scored enough to keep them safe. That's commendable, and I'm shocked he isn't the consensus choice. The Supporters' Trust gave their player of the season award to Tim Krul in a season where he missed 14 league games and the team conceded 68 goals. He's probably the team's most valuable player, but he wasn't the best player this season.