Newcastle United: Silver Linings from a Poor Season
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It’s fair to say Newcastle United have had a poor season.
Although their post-January form has pulled them clear of the relegation places, Alan Pardew didn’t predict a bottom-half finish for his Magpies side as they went into the Premier League season in August.
Coming off the back of a fifth-placed finish last year, Newcastle were expected to be around the European places again, while competing in the Europa League for the first time in years.
However, injuries, lack of form to key players and tactical misjudgements have cost Newcastle dearly, leaving the January raid of Ligue 1 to salvage their season.
But there are plenty of silver linings that the Geordies can take from the current campaign and take into next season.
The first, and perhaps most obvious, is the squad strength manager Alan Pardew now has at his disposal. The influx of Frenchmen has given the Newcastle boss genuine options all over the pitch and a realistic chance of fighting on two fronts this year.
Having a similar squad size going into next season—when Newcastle won’t be plying their trade in Europe—will give Pardew the chance to rotate his side in the Premier League and be stronger for their cause.
Currently, players like Vurnon Anita and Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa are warming the bench, while Cheick Tiote and Fabricio Coloccini hold down starting berths. But Coloccini is set to leave in the summer, giving Yanga-Mbiwa the chance to fill the boots of the Newcastle captain.
For now, the former Montpellier defender can continue to learn about his new surroundings and grow into the Premier League, meaning he can come into the first team when needed.
Yanga-Mbiwa and his fellow new signings are also continuing to settle into life in a new country, something which they will all have done by the time the new season kicks off. Moussa Sissoko has had no trouble turning in some eye-catching performances, while Yoan Gouffran looks comfortable in England too.
Once they all learn English and are used to each other’s style of play, it can only be a good thing for Newcastle as they head into the 2013-14 season.
In a way, signing so many players in January has been perfect for the Club, as it allows the remainder of the season to be used as a settling-in period, ready for the next year.
The Geordies aren’t expected to do much strengthening in the summer months, with players only likely to be brought in if some depart first. For example, another centre back is expected to replace Coloccini and provide cover for the probable first-choice pairing of Steven Taylor and Yanga-Mbiwa.
The first XI should be similar to the one we are seeing in recent weeks this season, with the addition of Hatem Ben Arfa making the Magpies a seriously dangerous side going forward. Ben Arfa coming back from injury is the final piece in the jigsaw for Alan Pardew and once he starts linking up with his fellow Frenchmen, Newcastle will benefit with more goals.
The final—and perhaps most important—silver lining for Newcastle regards the board at St James’ Park. Mike Ashley and Derek Llambias made mistakes in the summer and had to rely on their chequebook to bail them out in January.
If we can be sure about one thing, it is that the board will learn from their mistakes and not make the same ones again. Newcastle won’t leave themselves short in terms of the playing squad, so as to avoid the kind of months that ruined their season this year.
Ashley and Llambias are astute businessmen and will learn from this season’s finish—whatever it may be—to lead the club to stronger finishes in years to come.
So despite their poor campaign this time round, Newcastle have a number of things to be positive about. Seeing out the rest of the 2012-13 season and finishing as high as possible is the first task for Pardew and his side, before attention can turn to preparations for next season and trying to repeat the feat of 2011-12 with a new-look side.
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