IPSWICH ENGLAND - JANUARY 12: Connor Wickham of Ipswich Town is challenged by Denilson of Arsenal during the Carling Cup Semi Final First Leg match between Ipswich Town and Arsenal at Portman Road on January 12 2011 in Ipswich England. (Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)
This is part two in a series of four about the upcoming summer transfer window, perhaps the most anticipated summer in Newcastle's recent history. Part 1, investigating the team's needs can be found here. Again, these are intended to be discussion posts, so make yourself heard in the comments.
Yesterday, we looked at the priorities Alan Pardew must keep in mind when he goes traipsing through the transfer market. Not everybody agreed with me (which is pretty great, actually), but I came up with the following wishlist:
- Wing Back
- Depth Everywhere Else
The question now becomes, given the money available, how many players does Pardew pursue and of what caliber?
Of course, we don't have full access to Mike Ashley's books, but we've heard that all £35 million will be available this summer. While Ashley may have good intentions about holding back none of the Andy Carroll money (let's just assume the best for simplicity), there are many variables to consider and questions to answer. Kevin Nolan and Joey Barton are said to be on the verge of signing new contracts, and if and when they do, will that money count against the £35 million? If so, that number is going to shrink pretty rapidly.
Another factor to consider is that the presumed budget is supposed to cover wages for any new players, so presumably the "cap" will be considerably lower than advertised. Also, it was announced this week that Premier League clubs will receive a record amount of funds from television deals (The Independent). Will Ashley earmark that money for transfers or pay down the club's debt to himself? (He's loaned £139.8 million to the club over the years.) One couldn't blame him for doing the latter, though it would be nice if he saw the summer as an investment opportunity and gave Pardew even more to work with.
I say all this to temper your expectations. It would be wrong of us to evaluate this window in September by taking all of the transfer fees reported in the press and adding them up to see if they equal 35,000,000. The reality is not that simple. There's another caveat to consider here as well: Newcastle is almost certainly going to overpay for somebody this summer. I say that not because of this club's history - though that's certainly a consideration - but because everybody in the entire world of football knows that Ashley has money to spend and will raise their asking price as a result.
With all of that in mind, I see three basic strategies that Pardew could employ this summer:
1. Go All-in on One World Class Player
There's a mentality out there that says that if you have the money to bring in a world-beater, you do it. A top-rated, £20 million plus kind of guy will make everybody around him better, the thinking goes, but the problem is that one injury blows up your entire strategy. There's also the weight of increased expectations to consider, and of course talent evaluation - overpaying for one guy isn't going to do a whole lot of good if he isn't as good as you think he is. Still, there's something to be said for raising a club's profile and expectations by bringing in a big name.
2. Diversify Your Investments by Buying Several "Project Players"
The idea behind this strategy is that if you buy enough £3-5 million players, one of them is going to end up being great. All the while, you're building the team's depth, which is certainly a noble cause. The problem is that you're failing to take advantage of an opportunity to make a big splash. Also, while I would eschew any player acquisition strategy that's purpose is to appease the fanbase, you've at least got to keep in mind the expectations of your supporters. There's not going to be a ton of excitement on Tyneside if Pardew follows this strategy.
3. A Hybrid
Like most things, I think truth is found on both extremes. The question is, what sort of balance works best? Should the team sign 3 or 4 £5-7 million players, or should they go with 1 solid £15+ million player and use the rest on a couple of complementary pieces? I think that most reasonable fans are going to land somewhere in the middle of the two scenarios listed above, but to what extent? A lot of what you think will depend on the level of trust you have in Head Scout Graham Carr and in Alan Pardew's ability to sign the players once they're found.
What do you think? Should Newcastle spend the big bucks on one big name, rely on the scouting department to bring in several under-the-radar guys, or something in between? Let us know in the comments.