Ever since we sold Kevin Nolan a number of questions have been asked: Why did we let him go? Was he pushed out? Where are the goals he scored going to come from? That kind of thing.
A lot of people have looked at Hatem Ben Arfa as Nolan’s replacement but I personally think it’s Yohan Cabaye.
Kevin played centre mid in a 4-4-2 for over half the season, scored 12 goals, and got 1 assist in the process. This will surprise some fans… Only one assist? People focus too much on the goals he scored rather than his actual performances overall, in every aspect of the game needed from a central midfielder. This is where Nolan has lost a yard, and his worth to the team in my opinion.
Now that argument aside for the moment, obviously given the option to still have him, why not? This is where the misconception that he was pushed out comes into play. Nolan wanted a four year contract and around £60k per week. The club didn’t agree that this is what he should be offered and what was offered was a twelve month extension on a current two year, £40k a week contract which was heavily incentivised based on performance related bonuses which if met would have given him his £60k with an option of a year extension
Nolan did not want to sign this deal. Why not? He gets two more years at the club he supposedly loved, maybe three if he earns it! He gets £40k a week which isn’t a bad wage at all for a mid-table side and if he performs gets the £60k he wanted. Is it that Kevin himself knew that he couldn’t perform to that level for the next three years? Is it that with recent injury problems and the most recent operation he knew he wasn’t a 40 game a season player any more? Is it that, for all the talk, he cared more about the money than the club? Maybe it was simply an ego conflict?
Look there is absolutely no question that Kevin Nolan done very well for us over the course of the last two seasons. He was a good man to have around in the dressing room and a vocal style leader on the pitch. The fact is that over the past two seasons this has been needed at the club – we needed Kevin more than he needed us and he knew it.
As much as we all loved Chris Hughton I believe that he was too passive, too nice a guy for cut-throat Premier League football and the media attention that comes with it. Kevin Nolan and Joey Barton were pivotal in that dressing room under Chris, but going forward the dynamic has changed and personally I don’t think Nolan liked it.
Alan Pardew is a much stronger character than Chris Hughton in my opinion. Whether fans rate him or not as a manager is still up for debate but in terms of ‘the man’ he is very hands on. He is the boss and the players fall in line.
This may have rubbed Kevin up the wrong way to an extent. The realization that a large aspect of his value for the club was not necessarily required any more followed by the realisation that with the signings of Yohan Cabaye and impending recovery of Hatem Ben Arfa would impact on his value to the club on the pitch. It was now a scenario where maybe Nolan needed the club more than we needed him.
Look all this is speculation on my part, providing an alternative insight to the one generally portrayed by mainstream media as well as the one of Kevin Nolan who came out the other day slamming the club. While his side of the story may hold a certain amount of truth in it, it has to be said that it held a certain amount of bitterness too.
Maybe the club watched Kevin the second half of last season and realized that offering him a five year contract at £60k would be a big mistake? That we could end up with another Alan Smith on our hands in half that time yet have to pay him and watch him see out the contract without playing. End of the day players like Smith are taking up wages that could be allocated elsewhere which indirectly impacts the ability to offer good contracts to new players. We can’t have too many players like that on the books – we already have enough!
Player power is a dangerous aspect creeping ever more into the game. It has changed the playing field. Honesty and integrity are not a given any more and money and agents have more power than they should. With large wages and price inflation comes greed, and the tabloid media is the weasel thrown into the chicken coop to stir it up and facilitate their own greed and desire to sell papers regardless of the pure truth, with clubs being held to ransom by players that might not even play every week.
Newcastle are a club that have experienced this in the past all too often. We experience it today in players like Smith and Xisco and with Enrique putting us in a very difficult position with only a year left on his deal. Maybe the cerebral approach void of emotion was the right thing to do in this case?
Anyway as I said, speculating on speculation, but food for thought all the same. Whatever the truth may be in its purest form we will never know. What we do know is that Nolan is gone and we have technically replaced him. Is that replacement good enough? Or better? Let’s see…
As I said earlier although most see Hatem Ben Arfa as the replacement for Nolan I believe it to be Yohan Cabaye. This lad looks the part on first impressions but the jury is still out with a lot of fans and
that is understandable considering many wouldn’t have seen too much of Cabaye up until now. To start off the comparison I checked out the stats over the past two seasons between the two.
First of all this doesn’t include overall game, mobility, pass completion etc etc. It’s simply end product
related since that is where people think we were stupid to sell Nolan. So, including goals and assists Nolan is directly responsible every 2.05 games with Cabaye every 2.06. Absolutely nothing between them.
So it comes down to their game outside of end product…
The argument is that this is where Nolan is also going to be a big loss because of his leadership. Fact is we are not one of these clubs with one leader, or no true leader. Fabricio Coloccini is more than capable along with Steven Taylor who bleeds black and white and Steve Harper and Alan Smith who will both play a part in steadying the dressing room at least.
My final point on this aspect is what Alan Pardew said regarding the Kevin Nolan situation. Personally I have to agree with Pardew when he said that although Nolan was a very good captain he couldn’t see him being in the first team week in and week out over the next few years, so it’s very hard to be a leader when you don’t play.
The other argument, as mentioned earlier, is that it was off the pitch too that this was needed, and it is, but not by players. Instead it should be by management, by staff, and then by players chipping in when necessary.
It was vital that we had that when Hughton was in charge. As much as I liked the guy and there was dressing room harmony it was because he was so soft spoken and passive that it was essential the likes of a Nolan or Barton took on that responsibility. However Pardew is a strong character and love him or hate him the one thing everyone he has worked for or has worked under him has said is that he has presence, and very good man management skills.
Another argument if we stick to simply the Cabaye vs Nolan argument on leadership alone is this. Cabaye may well be one of those players that is similar to David Beckham in that he is not the type to go shouting and instructing players but rather to lead by example, to pull the strings and be a subtle but huge influence on games. I don’t know for sure but from everything the Lille manager has said about him or has been written about his game, this is exactly the type of player he is – very good on the ball, technically sound, and player who likes to dictate play and get the best out of team-mates. Hopefully that’s the leadership argument put to bed..
So now it comes down to engine, mobility, versatility, overall game…
Look Nolan served us well and I think he will do extremely well in the Championship but lets be honest, anyone who watched Newcastle in the second half of the season could clearly see that Nolan hadn’t got the legs anymore. There is no question that he would try his best, but it just wasn’t in the tank. This is where I think its a no-brainer between the two.
Cabaye is a younger, fitter, box to box midfielder who has the versatility to play in a defensive or attacking role, including behind a striker. He will get on the ball more and off the ball be able to chip in defensively without it affecting his ability to get up and support attacks too. He showed this at Leeds.
So in conclusion I think statistically there is nothing between them, but overall game and for the future, personally I think it was a very astute move and we have replaced Kevin with a younger better player.
As much as its hard to eliminate emotion and look at it objectively, all things considered I think the club made some very good decisions for the club in this situation. Immediate reaction will always be harsh to selling your captain, but I think over the course of the season many fans against this decision may rethink their stance and realize that for a change we put emotion aside and made a very clever business and footballing decision.
Now to try and replace Barton…