Alan Pardew. Probably not shaping to punch someone in the face.
Newcastle United got a badly-needed win against Norwich on Sunday. Prior to this—aside from their sole win against Tottenham Hotspur in their opening fixture—the team hadn’t scored first in any of their Premier League matches this year. This won’t get them anywhere near the fifth-place finish they enjoyed last season.
Repeatedly chasing a deficit demonstrates a lack of ability to control the game, so Alan Pardew will look to rectify this in the January transfer window. Last year saw the arrival of Papiss Cisse—which, I think we can agree, turned out pretty well—so Pardew will hope for the same degree of success in 2013.
Here are five players who will help the Magpies climb the table in the second half of the season.
Virgil van Dijk possesses a good combination of defensive steel and attacking instincts.
As far back as March, it was reported that Virgil Van Dijk was in talks with Newcastle about a possible move to the Toon. Nothing materialised, but the rumour mill has started turning again ahead of the January window.
This may just be an attempt to lower the price of Mathieu Debuchy, but Van Dijk would be a better investment in the long term.
Fabricio Coloccini has struggled with injuries already this year, and James Perch has had his own fitness—and performance—problems. Bringing in Van Dijk would provide cover for both players, as well as bringing some extra height to the centre of the Newcastle defence.
Van Dijk is the type of player that Pardew would like in his lineup. He has good ball control, excellent vision and the versatility to play as a defensive midfielder should the system require it. He also provides an extra attacking threat, having scored some impressive goals for FC Groningen in the past.
While it’s really too early to suggest, van Dijk certainly has the potential to fulfil a role similar to the one Daniel Agger has held down for Liverpool: an elegant defender who is also prepared to fight his way out of his own half and threaten the opposing goal.
Van Dijk is under contract with Groningen until 2015, so Pardew will have to reach into Mike Ashley’s pockets to pry him away. Something in the region of £5 million is likely to do the trick.
Garita is the type of player you watch and then conclude that it’s only a matter of time before a bigger side picks him up. Currently playing for French outfit Chateauroux, Garita has reportedly told the club that he wants to move on if the right bid comes in.
Still on a youth contract, the 17-year-old has excelled already, scoring three goals in three games for Chateauroux’s reserves and looking consistently threatening.
Unleashing a 17-year-old onto the top flight is a risky business, especially if that player has previously played all his football in another country. The step up from CFA 2 football to the Premier League is huge, as well as it being a complete culture change.
However, the impact that Garita could have on the Newcastle attack makes him a target worth pursuing. Reports suggest that Arsenal are also interested in his services, so Pardew needs to come up with a good wage package in order to lure him to the North East.
The good news is that his transfer will likely come cheap, with some estimates putting his value at around £100,000. A potentially game-changing forward with that kind of price tag is too good to pass up.
Thomas Ince has drawn a lot of attention since making the move to Blackpool.
After spending eight years at Liverpool's academy, Thomas Ince elected to move to Blackpool for regular first-team football. That choice has since been proved correct and Ince has blossomed under Ian Holloway's leadership, already making a strong start to the season.
This has got the attention of Premier League clubs, with Swansea reportedly making a bid for the midfielder in August. Ince has maintained that he wants to stay with Blackpool, but with the right offer he could be tempted away.
Ince has the ability to play out wide or in the middle, and his attacking instincts inevitably draw comparison to his father, Paul. However, Ince shows a dribbling ability that his father didn't have, and it is this that excites the scouts.
It's fair to say that Newcastle already have a lot of options in midfield, but the addition of Ince would bring them more opportunities in front of goal. Ince will carve something out of nothing, and although his crosses are currently better than his regular passes, he is composed on the ball and able to win the one-on-one battles.
The Daily Mirror reported that Pardew put in a £4 million bid for Ince during the last transfer window, so it's not unreasonable to expect him to try again.
The final decision will rest with Ince, however. Blackpool are currently on a promotion course, so Ince may gamble on his current club playing Premier League football next year.
Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa has a good combination of youth and experience that will enable him to adjust easily.
It's no secret that the Newcastle defence is in need of some strengthening; the acquisition of Yanga-Mwiba would accomplish that.
The Montpellier product has been a fixture in the senior side for the last four years, playing at every position along the defence. This sort of versatility is immediately attractive in a potential target, with Yanga-Mwiba proving that he can be consistent regardless of where he plays.
Montpellier are currently riding high in the league, which is both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, the success gives their star players reasons to stay; on the other, it suddenly throws them into the spotlight and onto the radar of bigger clubs.
He has already been linked with Arsenal—the French connection with Arsene Wenger would likely be tempting—but Hatem Ben Arfa, Yohan Cabaye and Demba Ba have raised the profile of Newcastle in France, making it a more attractive destination.
As with most things in football, it will all come down to the money. Montpellier aren't the richest of teams, so a good offer for Yanga-Mbiwa would bring them a decent level of security for the next few years.
I’ve cheated here and feel no shame about it whatsoever. The 17-year-old Campbell is already a Newcastle player, making intermittent appearances in the squad when Papiss Cisse is unavailable or players are rested.
Choosing exciting prospects to sign in the January window is fine, but when there is genuine talent within the ranks already, it deserves the chance to succeed.
Campbell has been compared to Wayne Rooney and has an incredibly bright future. Blessed with great pace, balance and vision, the boy from North Shields has the potential to become the next Toon hero.
He doesn’t have the height of, say, Andy Carroll, but at 5’9” he has a low centre of gravity that enables him to make quick turns and cut past defenders. His 33-minute hat-trick against Tottenham in the FA Development League showed that he can take the game away from teams very quickly.
Pardew is so far easing him into first-team duties—much as David Moyes did with Rooney—and this is the sensible thing to do. Hype and expectation can damage careers from the outset, so Campbell is getting a good introduction to the Premier League without the pressure that goes with it.
However, Campbell has already shown that he has a great attitude and is unfazed by the big stage, so January might be the time to start giving him more minutes. Not signing a striker in the transfer window would be the ultimate show of faith in Campbell’s ability, as well as having obvious financial implications.
There’s always the danger of him being poached by a bigger club, but that’s not going to go away, regardless of when Campbell makes the transition to regular starter.
If he does well, the fans have another local success to cheer on. The lure of a top-three team will emerge, but Campbell seems grounded enough to make the right decision and not simply be blinded by the money on offer.
If he leaves it will be a shame. However, it's always nice to leave things on a cheerful note. With that in mind, here’s Andy Carroll’s old Bebo account.