It has been suggested by the Chronicle today that Newcastle United is looking to offload up to seven players before the summer transfer window slams shut. With current squad numbers sitting in the region of 30, it stands to reason that we need to offload some of the excess.
The names allegedly being touted for sale are Mike Williamson, Mehdi Abeid, Yoan Gouffran, Gabriel Obertan and Sylvain Marveaux. On top of that, there is a suggestion offers will be considered for Papiss Cisse and Captain Fabricio Coloccini (code word for ‘for sale’ in my book). The touting of these players will not come as a surprise to many. Several of them have contracts due to expire next summer, whilst all bar Coloccini and Cisse have been ineffective on the whole during their respective stints at The Magpies.
If this report is true, then there is also a talking point to be had regarding the players that have not been put up for sale. For example Haris Vuckic is listed on the club website as one of the squad’s midfielders, but Shane Ferguson is not. What does Steven McClaren and Co. plan to do with these two alongside the likes of Gael Bigirimana and Curtis Good? For me, Vuckic is still a real talent. His recent spell at Rangers showed what he can do when played in a number 10 role behind the striker. It would be interesting to see him deputize for Siem De Jong this season, who we surely cannot expect to pull off a whole campaign unscathed given his previous injury record with us and current massive lack of match fitness. If our pre-season tour of the U.S is anything to go by, then we can expect a variation of a 4-2-3-1 formation this term. It would make sense to play De Jong behind the striker – and this is also Vuckic’s strongest position.
Gael Bigirimana is contracted to stay with us until 2017, so it is conceivable that he could go out on loan to prove himself this year. He has shown flashes of promise for us in the past, but for whatever reason Alan Pardew and Co. did not fancy him and he has stagnated badly. Surely he cannot be in with chance of making the 25-man squad this season. So if he’s not for sale, a loan must be a serious option for him. Shane Ferguson however is in his last season with us. Newcastle’s depth at left back is not great. Massadio Haidara has been steady enough in the wake of Davide Santon’s exit whilst Paul Dummett’s best position is still being debated. What is certain, is that Ferguson knows how to cross a ball. However, he has never been consistent enough for the first team and always seemed to run out of steam after about 70 minutes. What the plan is for him is anybody’s guess?
An interesting omission from this list is Rob Elliot. With Karl Darlow coming in and Freddie Woodman seemingly progressing nicely, it had been expected that Elliot would be making way. Elliot is actually a very steady goalkeeper and has been very useful to us during his time here. Darlow has not looked the most convincing during the U.S tour and Woodman is still very young and inexperienced. Retaining Elliot is a common sense move. There were many reasons why the club was dragged into a relegation fight last season, but one big reason was surely the lack of depth in goal. When Krul and Elliot were injured the inexperienced Jak Alnwick was thrown into the deep end. He spent more time picking the ball out of the net than he did making saves and it remains to be seen if he will ever player in the Premier League again. We do not want this to happen to Woodman and it seems the club has learnt this particular lesson from the last campaign.
Selling Papiss Cisse is a risk. For all his injuries, inconsistent form and disciplinary problems – he still finished our top scorer last season and is proven in the Premier League. The signing of Aleksandar Mitrovic, one of the most promising young strikers in Europe, is great to see. However, he is unproven at the highest level and cannot be expected to carry us on his own. We have been strongly linked to Charlie Austin – who IS proven in the Premiership. If Austin comes in, then fans would accept Cisse leaving. Letting him go with no proven replacement would be insane.
We have been linked to a couple of high profile defenders in addition to the imminent arrival of Chancel Mbemba. German-born Cameroonian Joel Matip has been mooted in the press as well as the highly unlikely Aymen Abdennour, who is apparently in the verge of a move to Barcelona. Coloccini has looked off the pace for a couple of seasons now and his will to be here has been in question since he apparently tried to engineer back to San Lorenzo. He is in his last year of his contract and it would make sense to offload him – but only on the condition that we get a solid, proven replacement for him. How easy it will be to sell a player clearly on the decline, aged 33 and on big wages is another matter…