The dust is beginning to settle after our poor summer transfer window. We all wanted more additions, investment and options in the squad by now. As always with Newcastle, things are never straight forward and we head into a long season with us again at the centre of supposed unrest, rumour and seemingly never far from a ‘crisis.’ However, under the radar there have been some positives for fans to cling to so far this season.
Rafa is still here
Arguably the most important. Rafa was clearly undermined and not happy as our lack of transfer activity folded. Ironically, he may be missing at the dugout this weekend for a hernia operation but Rafa has not resigned. As mentioned in previous articles, he may be waiting for other clubs and no longer see a long term future here but regardless, the longer he stays the better our chances of survival this year are. This story is going to run and run, so let’s appreciate him being at the helm.
We did beat West Ham…
As typical with NUFC, it’s easy to sometimes forget the actual football and what happened on the pitch. We did secure a vital and resounding victory in our last Premier League game. The 3-0 victory was impressive and gets our season underway, even if West Ham were very poor. It takes the pressure off us getting our first win and the support for Rafa from the fans may again have kept him here. There were some good performances and players like Ritchie, Hayden and Clark looked at home in the Premier League after we all had doubts on whether they could make the step up. It is one game of course, let’s hope they can build on it against Swansea.
Despite a few highlights, such as that goal against Rotherham, Atsu failed to secure a place in the starting XI in the Championship last year. Our last of investment under Ashley meant it still made sense to make the deal permanent for £6.7m and it was assumed he would be a good option off the bench. However, Atsu has started the season well. He was arguably our best players against Spurs and got a great assist for Joselu against West Ham. He has a point to prove and has forced his way into Rafa’s XI. New signing Murphy will have to continue to wait to get a run in the side if he keeps it up.
Signings showing their worth
As mentioned, we wanted more signings and more quality signings. That is clear. However, some of Rafa’s buys are starting to show their worth. Mikel Merino looks a real find. He impressed against Huddersfield despite the idiotic comments of Souness and looked the part against West Ham. Even when he came on against Spurs, his range of passing, vision and work rate was clear. Being left footed offers us a nice balance in the middle of the park too. He even has his own song now and has been talking about the transfer being made permanent already; Newcastle need to do this as soon as possible.
Lejeune may be injured but he has showed promise. He had a great pre-season and looks a commanding centre half. He is due to return this weekend which is a boost considering Mbemba now also is set for time on the treatment table. Could be a steal at £8.7m.
Joselu arrived to little fanfare, including myself. After a 27 year old who didn’t play regularly for Stoke is never going to get fans drooling. But credit where it is due, he has looked sharp. I thought he made far more of an impact than Gayle when he came on for our number 9 against Huddersfield and of course capped his home debut with a goal last time out. Maybe he will prove us wrong and be a good addition.
We have options for Swansea
Now the transfer window has closed it is clear we don’t have the quality we hoped for in the squad. We do though have options in the squad to rotate things if needed. Shelvey is back this weekend after his ban and it will be interesting to see where or if he plays with the form of Merino. I would like him to be given a shot in the number 10 role as we have still not solved this area of the pitch.
Rolano Aarons is fit and firing again. He wont start but he is a clear talent and it would be great if this could be his real break through year. Lejeune could return, Murphy could still help this season too and Joselu is on a roll. He is banned (again) but Mitrovic scored against West Ham and has been on song for Serbia. Yedlin could come back to add much needed pace as well.
We don’t have star players but we have options in most areas of the field except left back, which is ironic after the Pardew era. Hopefully some of the squad can step up and fill the void left by a lack of investment.
Who do you want to see given a chance against Swansea?
About Simon Riddlesden
Lifelong Newcastle United fan and East Stand season ticket holder. Observations from a supporter who has followed NUFC during Champions League participation and through relegation, taking me from Milan to Scunthorpe.