There’s an old cliché, usually espoused by Arsene Wenger, that returning players are like new signings. No manager this year feels quite as strongly about this as Newcastle manager Alan Pardew.
Since finishing fifth last season, Pardew has seen his team decimated by injuries and suspension, meaning the lack of depth in the Newcastle side has been woefully exposed.
Yohan Cabaye, Hatem Ben Arfa, Ryan Taylor and Steven Taylor have missed the majority of the season, while Fabricio Coloccini, Cheick Tiote and Vurnon Anita have all spent time on the sideline due to injury or suspension.
Papiss Cisse has been out of form all year, and the only player keeping the team out of the relegation zone, Demba Ba, has now departed for the bright lights of London and a fresh start with Chelsea.
With this in mind, how could Newcastle not be affected by any signings in the January window?
New recruit Mathieu Debuchy immediately brings a sense of steel to the Newcastle defence, one that has looked very shaky this year. Both Danny Simpson and Mike Williamson have been caught out of position at crucial times, enabling the opposition to get behind the defence and bear down on Tim Krul’s goal, often to Newcastle's cost.
Debuchy is an instant upgrade on Simpson, offering greater resolve in defence and an improved attacking option. Simpson has gotten himself into good positions only to be let down by the quality of his crossing, but Debuchy has the ability to provide the service Cisse so desperately requires to succeed.
The Frenchman is arriving at a different club to the one seen at the start of the season, however.
Newcastle’s priority, once a Champions League place, is now Premier League survival. The injuries to key players mean that Debuchy will be called upon to make a defensive stand more than an attacking run, but the game against Norwich gives him a decent introduction to the side.
While Norwich are in a better position than the Toon right now, former Newcastle manager Chris Hughton has seen his Canaries team slump to a succession of defeats in recent weeks. Norwich have been strong at home this year, but an early goal could shake them up.
Debuchy will see at least one familiar face as the team travel to Norwich, as Pardew revealed this week that Cabaye will be ready to play a role in the game, via ESPN:
The good news is we are taking Cabaye on the bus, which is like signing a new player. I don't think he's really ready to start, if I'm honest. I think his role will be off the bench, if the situation evolves where we need him.
The creativity of Cabaye will prove a welcome boost for a midfield that has been stagnant for a lot of the year. Even if Cabaye is involved in a limited manner, it automatically gives the Toon more options going forward. Cisse and Coloccini also return to the fray this week after sitting out the embarrassing defeat to Brighton in the FA Cup.
The new year brings further joy to Newcastle in the shape of Steven Taylor, who is due to return to the side for the game against Reading next week.
Having these sort of senior players back in the team is crucial to Newcastle’s Premier League survival, and although the results won’t be instant, the returning players give a boost to a team that’s searching for any kind of luck in the second half of the season.
The bad news among this positivity is that Ben Arfa’s return will be put on hold until February, according to The Shields Gazette. This makes another new signing all the more important, as the team will struggle to score in Ba's absence.
The acquisition of Remy is important to Newcastle’s development, as it will give them extra pace to break teams down. Upon Ben Arfa's return, Cisse can operate in the centre with Remy and Ben Arfa on either side of him in the 4-3-3 that served Newcastle so well last year.
Pardew is understandably keen to bring him to Tyneside, and if the Magpies pick up Remy and avoid the drop, they will be a dangerous team next year.
Owner Mike Ashley has paid the price for failing to build on a successful season, and the new recruits will help to address the lack of depth at key positions.
The return of Cabaye is the key to success in 2013, however. It is his ability in the midfield that will allow the players in front of him to thrive—regardless of who they are.
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