Alan Pardew has introduced a free-flowing 4-3-3 formation to St James’ Park this season, but you get the feeling that the Newcastle United manager is still looking for the right personnel to make the system work.
However, with the transfer window now just over two months away from reopening, the Magpies boss will soon have his chance to bring in the players he thinks will best suit his new-look lineup.
And to make Pardew’s job just that little bit easier, we at the Bleacher Report have come up with a list of potential transfer targets for the North-East giants to go after in January who would fit perfectly into the coach’s attack-minded formation.
But it is also important to remember that the Geordies are forced to operate within certain financial constraints, meaning that the club would either be eyeing clever loan swoops or moves for up-and-coming young English stars of the future, with the occasional big-money arrival thrown in, of course.
Pardew is still playing with four defenders; however, with the change of team shape in both midfield and attack, there are now different questions being asked of his back four, in particular his full-backs, in this 4-3-3 lineup.
As a result, it is vital that both full-backs support his more narrow-looking midfield three whenever possible, as all players in that position are now required to do in the modern game.
At present, Pardew plays with France international Mathieu Debuchy and Italy international Davide Santon at right- and left-back, respectively, both technically accomplished players in their own right.
Newcastle are considering a swoop for Man City’s Micah Richards to provide competition for Mathieu Debuchy. (Source: talkSPORT)
— Transfer News Live (@DeadlineDayLive) October 14, 2013
However, one wonders how much more fluid and successful Pardew’s new system would function with out-of-favour full-backs Micah Richards from Manchester City and Ryan Bertrand of Chelsea (see above video) in their places, adding much-needed pace and width in support of the Newcastle midfield.
And with a rock-solid spine of Tim Krul in goal in front of skipper Fabio Coloccini and Steven Taylor at centre-back, that would be the foundation of an enterprising and attack-minded back five.
The key area of the pitch to make this system work is the midfield three, with Pardew currently opting for water-carrier Cheick Tiote in front of the creative French duo of Yohan Cabaye and Moussa Sissoko.
They are a fine trio to have in this type of formation, although in top-level football you are only ever as strong as the players that you have at your disposal on the substitutes’ bench, and Pardew cannot expect to go through the rest of this season just using those three men in midfield.
Not only that, but it would be a major surprise if rival clubs did not come in once again for Cabaye in January, meaning that it would surely be prudent for the Newcastle boss to be scouring the market for a like-for-like replacement for the in-demand France international playmaker, hard as that would be.
— Newcastle United FC (@NUFCNewsUpdates) October 13, 2013
However, two attainable midfield targets for the Geordies who would fit into the club’s new-look lineup would be Championship starlets Will Hughes of Derby County (see above video) and Thomas Ince from Blackpool.
The two players would be more than capable of either competing for the two Les Bleus' places in midfield or even if necessary replacing them, with both England Under-21 internationals renowned for their goalscoring abilities and fine technique in the centre of the park.
Pardew caused more than a few raised eyebrows when opting to use Hatem Ben Arfa as the focal point of his attack against Liverpool last weekend, with compatriots Loic Remy and Yoan Gouffran on either side of the mercurial French playmaker and Papiss Demba Cisse left on the bench.
And so the Magpies are blessed with an array of eye-catching attacking talent from which to choose from, although if I was the club’s director of football, then I would be recommending the addition of some new faces up front come the turn of the year in order to provide the manager with more forward options and the possibility of an always important Plan B.
Consequently, I would be targeting six-month loan swoops for both unsettled Manchester United wide man Wilfried Zaha and former Newcastle front man Demba Ba, who barely gets a game these days at Chelsea.
With the Premier League champions looking to offload their England winger come the new year, a player of Zaha’s speed and cunning—who would also have a major point to prove to his many doubters, especially David Moyes—would be an ideal addition at St James’ in order to provide competition for places in one of the two wide positions either side of the central striker.
— Daily Star (@Daily_Star) October 27, 2013
Meanwhile, Senegal international Ba has never really been replaced since he moved south last January would more than likely slip seamlessly back into the Newcastle setup, with Cisse struggling badly for confidence in front of goal at present and having been recently demoted to the bench.
Not only that, but the front man’s arrival would also allow Pardew to utilise Ben Arfa in other attacking roles should he so wish, with Ba taking his place in the middle of the 4-3-3 surely hungry just to get on the field of play again after warming the bench for most of this year.
And, if a loan swoop for Ba were to fall through, then Pardew can always turn his attentions to either long-running target Bafetimbi Gomis of Lyon or prolific forward Ola Toivonen PSV Eindhoven (see above video).
The latter is another highly rated striker whom the North-East club has been monitoring of late, and both of who would also fit perfectly into this system as a central striker.