Newcastle United: 5 Areas Where Alan Pardew Desperately Needs Reinforcements
Alan Pardew was quoted in The Journal on Monday, saying he was confident of signing "one or maybe two big players" before the transfer window closes.
Unfortunately, even if these signings do arrive that would still leave Newcastle with a small squad vulnerable to injuries and suspensions.
Having lost Andy Carroll and Kevin Nolan and released the likes of Sol Campbell and Shefki Kuqi, Newcastle's squad isn't currently any bigger than it was last season. In addition, there are injury question marks over new signings Demba Ba and Sylvain Marveaux and worries over how well Hatem Ben Arfa and Dan Gosling will return to fitness after their long layoffs.
In reality, there are five areas in which Newcastle need new recruits if they want to have a squad capable of a Top 10 finish.
The area most clearly targeted by Alan Pardew is up front. After the loss of Andy Carroll in January, this was obviously an area Newcastle needed to strengthen this summer.
Newcastle have signed Demba Ba, and Pardew has also mentioned his desire to play Hatem Ben Arfa just off a main striker. However, both of these players have had their injury problems. Ben Arfa has never scored more than eight goals in a season.
Nile Ranger has allegedly been told he can leave the club (although he has recently suggested on Twitter he is keen to stay), and there are also rumours of Leon Best being sold. Shola Ameobi is injury prone and is entering the last year of his contract, while Peter Lovenkrands' best years are behind him, and he is surely not going to be a first-team regular.
Newcastle missed out on Kevin Gameiro, and the on-off transfer of Mevlut Erding is still very much in the balance. If they miss out on Erding, they will have to move fast on to alternative targets. While most Newcastle fans would like to see Daniel Sturridge come to the club, it seems like that move would be too costly for Mike Ashley to consider.
Having lost the goal-scoring of both Carroll and Kevin Nolan, whoever they bring in needs to adapt quickly to the English game and contribute a decent haul of goals in their first season.
Beyond the seemingly inevitable departure of Jose Enrique, Newcastle have needed cover at left back since Sam Allardyce was in charge. Bafflingly, transfer windows seem to come and go without this problem ever being suitably addressed.
Newcastle moved to try and buy Neil Taylor from Swansea regardless of Enrique staying or leaving this summer. With the Taylor deal collapsing and assuming Enrique does leave, Newcastle need two left backs before the end of August.
Newcastle do have youngster, Shane Ferguson, who impressed last season, but he seems more suited to being deployed as a winger. He simply doesn't have the strength and build to be a Premier League fullback long-term.
Toulouse defender Cheikh M'Bengue is thought to be the club's top choice to replace Enrique. Now that the Taylor transfer is dead, Patrick Van Aanholt would be a popular signing with Newcastle fans, having impressed during a loan spell in 2010.
Worryingly, there has been no talk from Alan Pardew of signing a centre half, despite the release of Sol Campbell at the start of the summer.
At first glance, Newcastle seem well-stocked, with Steven Taylor, Fabricio Coloccini and Mike Williamson battling it out for a starting place.
Over the last two seasons though, Taylor has been blighted by injury. The next natural central defender in the pecking order is Tamas Kadar, who has also suffered terribly with injuries in recent years.
After that, its down to James Perch, who seems certain to leave this summer and is nowhere near good enough, or Danny Simpson would have to move across from right back—where there is also a shortage of cover.
Newcastle don't need to go out and buy an expensive established defender, but they do need to find a young, promising centre half to boost their development squad and provide first-team cover when injuries and suspensions begin to mount.
Danny Simpson has adapted to life in the Premier League admirably but lacks any real competition for his place in the side.
Ryan Taylor doesn't have the defensive attributes or pace to perform at right back in the Premier League. James Perch, as discussed before, is unlikely to feature this year. While James Tavernier looks like a very promising youngster, his only first-team experience is at conference level.
Newcastle need to find a right back capable of directly challenging Simpson for a starting place on a regular basis.
In Cheik Tiote, Newcastle have probably the best young defensive midfielder in the Premier League. While Newcastle are well-stocked with midfielders, the only real like-for-like cover is Alan Smith, who doesn't really have the pace to still compete at Premier League level.
Tiote received 14 yellow cards and one red card last season, and his style of play will always result in him accruing more than his fair share of suspensions. Tiote is also almost certain to be missing for part of January, as he will be playing in the African Cup of Nations with the Ivory Coast.
Newcastle need cover in this area soon. Even without the suspensions and the ACN, there is always a risk with a player of undoubted ability that a large transfer offer could come in. Where would it leave Alan Pardew's plans if Mike Ashley decided to cash in on Tiote on the last day of the transfer window (August or January) without having a suitable replacement?