With the transfer window beginning to get into full swing, we seem to have some fans developing a sense of panic as to whether Newcastle United’s board are going to bring in the quality additions needed to continue the progress shown by the club over the past few seasons.
There has been a lot of media furore around the possibility of Andy Carroll potentially coming back, the need for defensive strengthening, with some saying our squad is far too thin in quality and numbers, but just how much strengthening to we really need?
Well I’m going to take a look at it and see, as you may have guessed by the title, whether we we have more depth in our squad than at it may appear we have at first glance. It’ll take me more than one article to get through the whole squad, but here is the first one which is going to focus on our goalkeepers, defence and defensive midfielders,. Basically everything we need to stay solid at the back and give those up front the platform needed to go and win a game.
In goal: Tim Krul, Steve Harper, Rob Elliot
Tim Krul was outstanding for Newcastle last season. Finally given the number one jersey, he proved his skill becoming one of our best players. During pre-season many felt that he wasn’t quite ready, but it took those few starts and a run of games to give him to confidence to show what he is capable of. I believe he will get better with time.
As backup, we have a very experienced Steve Harper, who despite getting on in years, still looks more than adequate when needed, and Rob Elliot who Alan Pardew has much faith in.
All in all, we are looking well covered in goal.
Right back: Danny Simpson, Ryan Taylor, James Tavernier, James Perch, Davide Santon and potentially Mathieu Debuchy.
The hope amongst most supporters is that Debuchy will sign on with the Toon before then end of the month. He impressed at the European Championships for France, looks a real handful in attack and will offer us a right back who can overlap and be far more assertive in possession than Danny Simpson.
What I cannot do however, is complain about having Danny Simpson in the squad. Defensively he is very sound and statistically was one of the best right backs in the league last season. If he could work on his skills on passing and ball possession I believe he could even be challenging Debuchy for a start.
Ryan Taylor isn’t the best defensively in my opinion, but he is a decent option as cover and has some good weaponry in a quality delivery and good long throw depending on the tactics we deploy. James Tavernier is a youngster who has done his time in the reserves, impressed while gaining first team experience on loan and now needs to get his chance in the first team at Newcastle.
Not forgetting that Santon can play at right back, and so can Jonas if needed, with six good options and a potentially class international signing looking likely, I’m confident the we will be well covered at right back this season.
Left back: Davide Santon, Ryan Taylor, Shane Ferguson, James Perch, Jonas Gutierrez
Davide Santon had a rough start in his first season in the Premier League, but began to blossom as he adapted towards the end of the season. He looked adequate defensively and excellent in attack. While perhaps lacking a bit of confidence, Ryan Taylor filled in at left back, and while he never really filled me with confidence, the statistics of our defence record of which he was part of the back four were there for all to see. He did alright in defence and offered something going forward. He also chipped in with some crucial goals.
Jonas found himself playing at left fullback for much of the season, covering for Santon and Taylor. He certainly didn’t disgrace himself and he seems happy to play there when needed which bodes well for the team and squad depth.
Again a youngster coming through the ranks, Shane Ferguson has done a decent job when giving a chance at a first team appearance. He may seem a bit light weight but never pulled out of a tackle and looked very energetic of decent going forward. James Perch, who is our “Mr Versatile” could really cover any position in the back four, and is other option on the left or right of defence.
That’s five fairly decent options.
Centre-back: Fabricio Coloccini, Steven Taylor, Mike Williamson, James Perch
Captain Coloccini was named as one of the best two centre backs in the league last year. A quality player, that reads the game superbly and mops up everything. Steven Taylor’s passion and determination and power has proved a perfect foil as together they were the best defensive pairing last season until Taylor’s injury. In which lies the problem. Will he stay fit?
Mike Williamson is a brute in the air and very useful in the squad when playing teams like Stoke that will bombard you with long balls. However should he find himself first choice due to an injury against a top pacey passing team like Arsenal or Man City, he could be a serious liability. James Perch is an option in this case and he did have some brilliant performances, but I still feel it is crucial we bring in quality in the centre back position.
This for me though, is by far the area which needs strengthening the most, both in depth and quality.
Defensive midfield: Chiek Tiote, Yohan Cabaye, Medhi Abied, Jonas, Gael Bigirimana, Dan Gosling, James Perch
There has been mention of Newcastle looking to add Vernon Anita to strength in this area, but for me, we are looking good already and should maybe think about strengthening other areas first.
Cheik Tiote is our main man. He shields the back four better than most in the league. Sometimes, however, we may play with two in front of the back four, in which case Cabaye, Abied, Jonas, Gosling and Bigi are all perfect foils. They have great energy, are strong in the tackle and can pass well from the back.
I also believe should Chiek get injured that James Perch has proved to be excellent at putting his foot in and breaking up the play. However, all six players are capable of performing the role. I believe we are very strong here, and we have a perfect mix of experience and youth.
Looking at our defence, it is clear that we need to add a quality centre back. However, for me, the left back position is also an area I feel needs some stronger competition. It would be even more preferable if that person could play a role at left back if needed to cover the lack in quality of depth. Eric Pieters, Mamadou Sakho someone in their mould. Would be perfect.
In summary, we probably need to bring in two players. A quality attacking right back or left back which Santon playing on the other side, and a quality centre back, that can fill in at fullback if necessary. What I also feel is crucial, is that we don’t overload these positions with quality experienced cover. This may not seem to make sense, but I feel it is more beneficial to have a quality starter, with versatile cover, and then a potentially quality youngster coming through.
In order for him to be given a fair chance to grow in skill and confidence, he will need to be playing and therefore should be at least second or third choice for the position in question.
Are we covered in the department?
Centre back: No. We don’t have one which would make someone like Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa (23) or Mamadou Sakho (22) ideal options<
Left back: Yes. Davide Santon (21) and Shane Ferguson (21).
Right back: Yes. Davide Santon (21) and James Tavernier (20).
Defensive midfield: Yes. Medhi Abied (19), Dan Gosling (22) and Gael Bigirimana (18)
So, do you agree that defensively, two quality additions would be enough to see us looking very strong?