The old cliché ‘what a difference a week in football can make’ seems quite appropriate at the moment.
It was only seven days ago when we were facing up to the reality that the season was just around the corner and we were yet to flex our muscles in the transfer window. The lack of activity saw a dark cloud hanging of St. James’ Park where we seemed to lurch from one failed bid to another.
While those around us seemed to be hoovering up players left, right and centre we were stuck at the starting blocks going over the same three names messes Remy, Gomis and Bent until we were all blue in face, and when we thought there was no end in sight, finally we caught a break.
Fast forward a few days and we’ve signed Remy on a season loan, with Gomis, despite all the guff of the last few days, expected to join very soon.
As a result, Tyneside is now a much more contented place. The monkey is off the back. We’ve made a significant signing to an area of the pitch that needed addressing. Out of all the three strikers mentioned, Remy was the one I personally felt would bring the most. Not a traditional striker he has the ability to operate as an inside forward, who can cut inside and provide ammunition for Cisse as well as a goal threat. While I don’t see him as a 15-20 goals a season man i certainly hope to see a minimum return of at least double figures but more importantly it’s his creativity and his ability to support the forwards as being his biggest asset, and it’s this creativity that we needed to address.
Now without a shadow of any doubt, adding additional firepower up front was essential. Cisse can’t carry the burden on his own, Shola, bless him, is Shola and young Adam Campbell is not ready for first team football. If we manage to add Gomis on top of Remy then that on paper should provide a very potent attacking threat but in order for this to work effectively creativity is needed.
Now this next part is a matter of opinion but do we possess the level of creativity within the team to support a forward line of this ability?
Going through our team, on paper creativity looks like it’s there in abundance. Ben Arfa, Marveaux, Gouffran and Cabaye are all names which would suggest yes but when looking at the stats for last season they don’t make for pretty reading. Out in front with Marveaux with six assets, which, when you consider from 22 appearances, ten of which were starts, doesn’t really set the pulses racing. After this the rest are fighting it out with most averaging two over the season – for a team with players of this pedigree that is not good enough.
Now I fully appreciate last season there were extenuating circumstances such as injuries and questionable tactics but surely though with the players of those calibre, the returns should be better and in fact beggars the question, ‘are they as good as we think?’
Take Hatem for example. Now without question he is one of the most skilful footballers to ever grace the turf at St. James’. Particularly looking at his post Christmas form during the 11/12 season, was there a more exciting footballer in the league at that time? There is certainly a strong argument to say no, however, as he now approaches his fourth year with us, in that time, it can be equally argued that has been the only period in which we have seen the full array of his ability?
With Hatem of course you need to account for the horrific injuries which understandably have taken their toll but also what about the games that he goes missing, or when he opts for a mazy run that ends up with a wild shot closer to the corner flag or beating two and trying to take on a third when there are simpler options available?
Don’t get me wrong, on his day I love to watch him play but equally he can have me tearing my hair out. The same can be said for Marveaux – in my opinion probably the most creative player in the team last year but for whatever reason couldn’t seem to get that regular run in the team to produce the form he is clearly capable of – whether that’s down to injuries or the manager, the key to both these examples is ensuring that in order for there to be creativity it must come with consistency.
Now it’s unfair to single out these two as, let’s be honest, no one deserved to leave the field post Arsenal with their head held high. They were all poor and that is why this season we are due a performance from these guys – the big question mark though is will we receive it?
Maybe it’s my hardened years supporting this club but unfortunately for me i can’t seem to shake the existing concerns surrounding injuries – potentially it could be the case that we never see the days of HBA being able to fully match those glorious few months of early 2012. With this mind, my hope is such thoughts aren’t lost on the current management set up and if budgets permit, in addition to a striker, we’ll look to add some additional creativity to the team.
Undoubtedly I think this is certainly something Remy can bring but for me it would be wrong to pin so much weight on his shoulders, especially as there are options available should we wish to purse. Two names automatically spring to mind being Tom Ince and Scott Sinclair – both available at reasonable prices that would increase as they both develop, both possess pace – something we badly lacked last season with the ability to run at defenders, and both know where the back of the net is.
Now these two are just examples and I appreciate that for some the obvious question is if we bring them in who do we replace them with? Well for me it’s not replacing its adding and ensuring creativity to a squad that was and is lacking. Lessons have to be learned from last season and it would be wrong to assume the issues can be addressed with the addition of one lonely forward.
Your thoughts please.
By Southern Geordie