Newcastle United boss Alan Pardew
Not for the first time, Newcastle United fans are experiencing a familiar mix of anxiety and despondency as the transfer window creeps towards Friday’s deadline.
Last summer, after much discourse from newly appointed director of football Joe Kinnear, the club failed to make a single permanent signing during the close season.
Despite their brush with the drop last term, French striker Loic Remy was the Magpies’ only capture on a season-long loan deal from relegated Queens Park Rangers.
Kinnear said judge him on his signings yet he hasn't made any, no one in the summer and probably going to sign no one this month #NUFC— Nathan Fox (@Foxy_005) January 26, 2014
And this January, the Toon appear to be following a similar path, with not one new face through the door at St. James’ Park as we enter the final week of the window.
There is obvious need for improvement in certain areas. In attack, Remy’s 11 goals have been complimented by a solitary Premier League strike from fellow forwards Papiss Cisse and Shola Ameobi.
And defensively, Mathieu Debuchy’s recent three-game suspension left manager Alan Pardew without a recognised right-back to choose from and prompted complete reorganisation.
But the most frustrating aspect as far as the club’s followers are concerned is their team’s current position in the table—a solid eighth with a 12-point gap to the team two places below them.
Given this secure cushion, now would seem the ideal time to roll the dice in the transfer market, much like owner Mike Ashley did last January, when he brought in five new faces from France.
Those players—namely Debuchy, Yoan Gouffran, Moussa Sissoko, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa and Massadio Haidara—doubtlessly took time to settle before finding their feet across the English Channel.
This season, most of them look far more assured, but their introduction into an already-struggling squad last term almost coincided with the club’s second relegation in four years.
The picture this time around is much rosier, and with a mid-table finish their minimum objective, now would appear to be the perfect time to invest in some of their long-term targets.
Because any risks Newcastle take this month would not impact their place in the Premier League, a 16-game introduction period between now and May could work wonders for any new signings.
The pressure is off Pardew’s men this time around, making this window an obvious opportunity to spend on the type of talent needed to push the football club to the next level.
But one big question remains. Does Ashley want the Magpies to make that step up, or is mid-table mediocrity and subsequent safety the extent of his ambition?