Any new manager coming into Newcastle will have to deal with a host of problems from the off. Forging a working relationship with the club hierarchy. Learning how to deal with your best players being sold without replacement. An unbalanced squad which can only be updated if someone is sold first. Someone else deciding which new recruits come in. Low pay, high expectations, and pressure they won’t believe until they’ve felt it.
Yet that ignores the positives of the situation. There’s a real opportunity to turn around so much going wrong at the club. The unbalanced squad for instance. We look in dire need of at least one centre-half, possibly another with the news Steven Taylor is out for the season, and a striker who can hold the ball up. The summer signings really haven’t had the impact hoped for from them, though Colback has been a solid addition and Perez the surprise package to end them all. De Jong has been injured the whole season so far since 3 appearances early on, and Riviere and Cabella have looked lost when they’ve played. The latter two are relatively big-money signings with reasonably impressive records in France before they arrived here. Riviere looks to have physical presence which is exactly what we need, but he doesn’t look equipped to play as a lone striker. To make the most of him needs some tactical tweaking Alan Pardew was not prepared to do. A new boss might take a fresh look and see an answer not a problem. If De Jong, Perez, Cisse or anyone else can get near enough to him often enough maybe his fortunes and those of the team could change. Remy Cabella on the other hand has struggled with the physical nature of the Premier League while playing out wide and being required to track back. Neither has he looked particularly impressive with the ball at his feet, looking showy but unproductive so far. It’s not unknown for foreign players to get over that kind of start and find their feet in England though. Again, perhaps a change of tactics would help. To play him through the middle in an advanced role might help him concentrate on the attacking side of his game.
We really can’t lose with those two because in the end if either don’t come up to the mark our new manager will be able to generate significant transfer funds by selling them. I don’t know the terms of Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa’s loan deal but there’s a chance he could be persuaded to return by someone he has more confidence in than Alan Pardew. He’d be a much-needed body at centre-back, more importantly someone with pace at the heart of our defence. If he doesn’t fancy a return, again we get a good fee and a big drop in the wage bill. HBA, Jonas and Ryan Taylor are out of contract at the end of the season and the wages of at least one if not all will be back in the pot to be used for new signings. There is no need to sell anyone we don’t want to if we feel the need to sign new players, maybe not this January but in the summer certainly.
On the subject of our best players being sold, I’m not sure anyone’s been so impressive they’d attract big-money interest, nor that we’d be very inconvenienced if they did go. Who are we talking about anyway? Moussa Sissoko’s been a driving force for us and excellent on and off in recent months, but I don’t think he is irreplaceable in the way Cabaye was. Krul’s current long-term injury means he won’t go anywhere in the next 18 months until he’s proved his fitness. The idea of Cheick Tiote tempting a top European club has looked like a bad joke for years now. The only ones I’d be worried about losing right now would be Perez, Aarons and Janmaat. Perez and Aarons need to play more to attract enough of an offer to make us want to sell and Janmaat is a new signing who’s unlikely to leave anytime soon – though I hear Louis van Gaal, who managed him at the World Cup, is after a right-back at Manchester United so watch this space.
The real positive for anyone coming in is something Alan Pardew either didn’t realise he had in August or just disregarded; the youngsters breaking into the first team. Aarons, Abeid, Ameobi and Perez have all made a real difference to the side when they’ve played though Perez is the only one who’s really played a lot. There is more to come from them all. Adam Armstrong has a real chance too.
I don’t think the point of the high expectations at the club even needs to be addressed seriously. Just the sense of progression over time would be success compared to the stagnation of the last few years. Playing without fear would make such a difference to the side and indirectly to the fanbase. It would be a lot easier than it might seem at first too. Looking at Alan Pardew’s time here, whoever is the new person in charge will know they are virtually unsackable. If Mike Ashley has shown himself to be anything, it’s slow to pull the trigger. A bare minimum of staying clear of relegation worries will guarantee safety from the sack. The kind of manager we need to be after, someone who wants to make their mark on a club, who sees the need for a long-term project to achieve what they want to, will see that as the biggest positive of all.