Another transfer window has come to a close.
For some, it couldn't come soon enough. The deadline day has never been one for predictability, and just as there was always the possibility of Newcastle United signing a starting-calibre centre-back, there was also the prospect of a team like Chelsea coming in with a £40 million offer for Cheick Tiote.
The scouts have done their work: watching games and YouTube clips, observing training sessions, checking FIFA 12 stats or whatever they do.
Major Players In
Expenditure: £8.1 million. Figures are approximate.
Major Players Out
Leon Best (to Blackburn; £3 million)
Peter Lovenkrands (to Birmingham City; free transfer)
Danny Guthrie (to Reading; free transfer)
Fraser Forster (to Celtic; £2 million)
Alan Smith (to MK Dons; free transfer)
Income: £5 million.
You don't need me to tell you that the net spending figure is about £3.1 million, do you?
This is where Newcastle are one of the best around, and they did not disappoint this time. Curtis Good is an investment from a team with the fourth least amount of goals conceded in the league last season.
As a free transfer, Amalfitano should prove to be excellent value. If needed, he should be able to make contributions to the first team right away. While he won't propel the club to the Champions League on his own, that's not what he was brought in to do.
Gael Bigirimana has been a little shaky in the Europa League to date, but he's young. With a season in Europe and the reserves squad, fans should not have to wait for too long to see his purchase justified. At this rate, £1 million looks like a steal.
The big-name transfer made during the window was Vurnon Anita from Ajax. He can cover left and right-back, and defensive or central midfield. Eden Hazard had a field day against him at Stamford Bridge, but there are a couple of things to bear in mind:
- Anita was backing up after playing for 90 minutes against Atromitos.
- He is still relatively new to the league and while he needs time to adjust, he should be good enough to start within a couple of months.
- Eden Hazard has destroyed everyone he's come up against so far.
Against Tottenham Hotspur, Anita looked promising. He's a versatile player, and £6.7 million is a good price for what he can do. While it is unlikely that he will displace Yohan Cabaye from the starting roster, he provides excellent depth in the midfield and is a definite upgrade on Danny Guthrie.
Speaking of Guthrie, it was a disappointment to see him leave, even more so on a free transfer. That said, he was always going to have a hard time breaking into the first team and apparently he didn't like Tyneside. With those factors in mind, seeing him leave should surprise no one and there wasn't much United could do about it.
Picking up £5 million for Best and Forster was excellent business, however. Best was a good striker to have, but it was better to collect a fee for him than to let him leave on a free transfer. With the rise of Tim Krul, Forster was unlikely to feature for United so the £2 million transfer to get him off the books should be considered a blessing.
Alan Smith and Peter Lovenkrands leaving are no big deal. They have been good servants to the club, but are unlikely to feature at all going forward.
A while ago, I outlined what the club needs to purchase to maintain success in an extra competition.
This window was an excellent chance to build on the superb work done on the competition ladder in the 2011-12 season, and I must say Mike Ashley and co. really missed a golden opportunity to consolidate.
The central/defensive midfielder role was filled by Anita, who was essentially an upgrade on Guthrie.
Sylvain Marveaux can be considered a new signing if he stays healthy. He showed some really nice potential against Chelsea, so the final product could be an excellent player to sit opposite Hatem Ben Arfa and relegate Demba Ba or Papiss Cisse to the bench.
Ba opting to stay at the club is a boost, but another striker was important, to my mind. Someone like Loic Remy would have been superb, but even a cheap striker from League 1 would have done the job. Heck, I'd have settled for Shefki Kuqi's return.
As for the defensive upgrades that were supposed to happen...
A centre-back capable of competing with Steven Taylor was the first thing Newcastle should have brought in. If the deal for Douglas fell through, they should have moved for someone else. If Taylor suffers another season-ending injury, fans will be sweating on Coloccini staying healthy and in the FA's good books.
Do you remember the game against Norwich last season, in which Danny Simpson and James Perch were the starting centre-backs? We could well be seeing more of that during the next season. Mike Ashley is a gambler, and he is gambling on his club's centre-back store staying good.
While Danny Simpson has been kept, the upgrade at fullback never happened either. A world-class attacking right-back has gone begging for the time being in Mathieu Debuchy, and Simpson could now end up walking from the club. If that happens, any follow-up attempts to purchase Debuchy could see the price inflated.
If there were ever any back-ups, they haven't been pursued very hard. Erik Pieters was supposed to have been close to signing, but that died with the Netherlands' chances of winning Euro 2012.
This inability to add defenders has been exacerbated by Ryan Taylor's recent knee injury.
Prediction and expectations
If we're being honest, Newcastle overachieved by finishing fifth last season. Chelsea have thrown money into the wind and made some nice purchases (although I do think they are an overrated title prospect, they will compete for the top four).
Realistically, finishing in the top eight is a passing grade for me as "the best of the rest".
Looking at the clubs Newcastle will be competing with for the top six:
Both Manchester clubs. I will do a naked run down Lambton Quay in Wellington if Newcastle finishes above either of these sides. You heard it here first.
Arsenal always find a way to do well, despite losing their best players. They did get a bit lucky with Robin van Persie staying healthy, and an injury to Lukas Podolski or Olivier Giroud could be disastrous for them.
Tottenham Hotspur had a superb deadline day, bringing in Hugo Lloris and Clint Dempsey. Their midfield is now one of the best in the league (with Dembele and Sigurdsson two other add-ons), but their striking stocks are also a bit low.
Liverpool fans are in crisis mode. Their strikers are now Luis Suarez and Fabio Borini, which is supposed to cover three competitions. If Suarez gets injured or involved in another racist outburst, they are in a lot of trouble. Joe Allen was a good signing, but Lucas Leiva could be gone for a while too.
Everton have done well, but depth will be just as much a problem for them as it will be for Newcastle. If they get two or three injuries they're reduced to back-ups too.
While this window hasn't been ideal for Newcastle, it hasn't been ideal for other clubs either. A top six position certainly isn't out of the question, especially if a couple of the contenders get a particularly rough patch.
Where will Newcastle finish?
My prediction for the season is a seventh placed finish, sixth with a little bit of luck.
Final rating for the window
In terms of value, I'll give the club a 9.5 out of 10. The players they brought in were cheap and good long-term options.
Hanging on to star players will see another 9.5. While it was disappointing to see Best and Guthrie go, their departures are unlikely to ruin the season.
For filling needs, Mike Ashley gets 4/10. Not buying another centre-back was a bad idea, and the starting XI is still pretty much unchallenged. Anita was a good purchase and I am willing to concede Marveaux as effectively a new player.
Final score: 6.5/10. At least we're not Liverpool.