By the numbers, Newcastle United were among the most active in the summer transfer window. It just didn't feel like it.
Transfer windows are funny old things. If you are a modern club run in a way that doesn't skirt the legalities under Financial Fair Play, it's hard to win in the eyes of your support. On top of a year of transfer disappointment, this year's version of the transfer team had the ball placed on a tee waiting for them to hit it a ton... which is just what they started to do.
In the annals of history, the 2014 summer transfer window will be considered in two separate chunks. Part 1 would consist of July and August while Part 2 would consist of September 1. somewhat improbably, the lasting tale of this window, however, will be defined by Part 2. The club leadership from owner down have made their bed and will have to lie in it (or lie from it, depending on who you are talking to), especially when it comes to Alan Pardew who as the public face of the club acts as the club's mouthpiece - with very little nous it would seem based on the number of times he and his comments are left twisting in the wind by his bosses. Promises of specific numbers of transfers or specific policies (one out, one in) repeatedly ring hollow and do not curry him any favor with a public who are largely disenchanted with his leadership of the club in the first place. It is this situation that leads to the uneven perception of the summer 2014 window, and we will get to that again in a moment. First, the first two months of the transfer window.
Initially, the club made a number of moves that made a lot of sense. Moves that filled holes in the squad. Perhaps a move that put one over on the makems. Moves which, if not all received with thunderous ovations at first, could be clearly demonstrated to address issues and give Alan Pardew the compliment of toys that he has desired to implement his plan – whatever that is – starting with Newcastle-born but Sunderland-reared (in footballing terms) Jack Colback. Newly dubbed "The Ginger Pirlo" with a first England call-up under his belt, his early contributions on the pitch have been matched by the twisting of knickers that accompanied his departure from the club down the road. So far so good.
We needed depth at striker; in came Ayoze Perez for the future, and Emmanuel Riviére. and Facundo Ferreyra on loan. We needed a replacement for Yohan Cabaye; in came Siem de Jong. Mathieu Debuchy left for Arsenal, he was immediately replaced (!) by Daryl Janmaat who was younger, cheaper and arguably stronger on the defensive end while still bringing plenty in the attack. Rémy Cabella was brought in, partially as replacement for Cabaye, partially (presumably) to allow Moussa Sissoko to not have to play a right winger on television. Adding in two players for the future in the form of Karl Darlow (the now heir apparent to Tim Krul) and Jamaal Lascelles (one of England's best and brightest youth-level defenders) and we were left thinking to ourselves "Maybe this is enough. Maybe they've finally got it." We were in a position in which acquiring a center back would have put us feeling mostly decent about the squad.
It's hard, when multiple things can be affecting the symptoms, to know how to diagnose a problem. As the season started, many of our shiny new toys were on display as we bumbled to 3 consecutive competitive matches without any of them finding the net. A disappointing 3-3 draw with Crystal Palace yielded goals, but only one from one of our new players, and that one from Daryl Janmaat - our new right back. CB Mike Williamson scored from close range and youngster Rolando Aarons looked like everything we hoped we had gotten in the form of Rémy Cabella. Speed, craft, industry and a hell of a nose for goal were present by the bucket load in Aarons' 30 minute substitute appearance. This is all pertinent only in establishing what we knew heading into Sky Sports News Transfer Deadline Day™.
Transfer deadline day as we know it is a complete fabrication by Sky Sports to drive tune-ins, clicks and advertising dollars looking to capitalize on both. That's fine... and it's fun sometimes when you've got a horse in the race. Less so when you're usually selling prized assets at the 11th hour as the window SLAMS SHUT... but hey. Still a fun spectacle. Newcastle fans knew heading into this last day media extravaganza that they were going to need a couple of things; a forward who could actually score goals would be nice and a center back to replace certain-to-leave Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa would be essential. As is modus operandi for our Illustrous Potentate, we were connected with some seemingly attainable targets in the form of CBs Virgil van Dijk (who was never seriously in play) and Matija Nastasic whom we were reportedly offered by Manchester City. This all came very early in the day and served to act as the ultimate "we just couldn't get them over the line" that we all knew was coming. Ultimately, it was bad enough when we closed the window having sent off MYM (expected), leaving us with 3 CBs in the senior squad.
The moment that would ultimately define this year's summer window, however, would come at the very end of the day. So far at the end of the day, in fact, that Hull City needed a two-hour extension in order to take on loan a player for which Alan Pardew holds such distaste that we would have driven him personally and given a 2 year extension to the transfer window if he could have. Whether you are a Hatem Ben Arfa disciple or not, the circumstances around his departure leave a sour taste in the mouth, although the taste in our mouths never seems to be the concern of the club. Whether you believe it was a disagreement with Alan Pardew or that Fabricio Coloccini took exception to the winger for one reason or another, the fact remained that in a squad that is struggling mightily to find the net, Hatem Ben Arfa likely had a role to play – even if it was just creating for himself.
Time will ultimately tell whether this window is overwhelmingly a success or a failure, but it is set in stone what the narrative in the Toon Army will be. It's not the failure to address issues that will linger with us. We're used to that over the period of years. It's the blatant manner in which it was accomplished this time. It is another example of choosing a manager who many of us believe has lost the plot (if he even had it in the first place) over players that make the squad a better team. Sure we were the 7th biggest spenders and tied third for most bodies brought in over the summer... but the sad reality is that as it looks right now, in spite of investment this team is not nearly as strong as it was a year ago today.
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