NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, ENGLAND - MAY 07: Newcastle defender Danny Simpson (r) challenges Lee Bowyer of Birmingham during the Premier League game between Newcastle United and Birmingham City at St James' Park on May 7, 2011 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
For the next four days, we'll be looking at the transfer window through a few different lenses. Today, we'll identify the areas of need, and then we'll look at different strategies Alan Pardew could take, examine the players currently rumored to be targets, and then come up with some ideal targets of our own. These are intended to be discussion posts more than anything else, so make your voice heard in the comments.
I didn't want to do this series of posts before Newcastle achieved mathematical safety, mostly because I'm superstitious for no good reason. I still feel uneasy about it, mostly because we haven't done our CHN Community Off-Season Final Grades (tm) yet. However, with only 2 games left, I think we can feel okay about assessing the performance of each of the NUFC players in order to determine what Alan Pardew should be targeting with that large pile of cash he's been guaranteed this summer.
The reasoning behind this is simple enough. If Newcastle have a striker crisis (spoiler alert!), then perhaps they shouldn't be spending the big bucks on a top flight goaltender. Before determining a proper strategy or even worrying about specific players, it's a necessary step, even though it may not seem like it. We all know about the Magpies' main problem - hence the sarcasm above - but it would be a mistake to assume that there's only one area that needs improvement. Tunnel vision is never a good thing when it comes to player acquisition, and that's what we're trying to avoid here. Follow the jump as we prioritize Alan Pardew's areas of need.
Priority #1: Striker
This one's no secret, so we're not going to waste a lot of energy on it. Newcastle needs a striker, and everybody in the wide world of football knows that.
Priority #2: Striker
No, this isn't one of those gags where I highlight how important the need is by listing it twice. This team needs two strikers if they want to continue to use a 4-4-2, because none of the existing players should crack the Starting XI of a team with any ambition. Shola Ameobi and Peter Lovenkrands have been effective #2's on occasion, but in the last several months neither one proved himself to be somebody that should be counted on week in and week out in the Premier League. Nile Ranger has potential and I still believe in him, but banking on him putting it all together next year is a fool's errand. There's always the possibility that Pardew uses a 4-5-1 or similar formation, and he's said as much, but even with one striker you're an injury or suspension away from running out the equivalent of Shefki Kuqi.
Priority #3: Wing Back
First, there's the issue of replacing Jose Enrique Sanchez, assuming he leaves. As the season went on, Newcastle's attack became more and more left-handed as they relied on Jose Enrique and Jonás Gutiérrez to break down opposing defenses. The loss of JE could be mitigated by an attack-minded wing back, but even if he stays, the position remains one of need. There's plenty of depth; Shane Ferguson and both of the Taylors could be adequate fill-ins. Still, Danny Simpson remains the weak point of the back line that savvy managers have exploited for weeks now.
Priority #4: Winger
The reason that Danny Simpson has had such a major role on this team is that the lack of an attacking option on the right wing. Sure, Joey Barton had a great year, but he's never looked comfortable on the wing, often preferring to drift toward the middle of the formation. It's a curious case, because Barton averaged more crosses per game than anybody else in the Prem (h/t: johnjahafanclub), yet opposing defenses never really felt as if they had to game plan for his threat down that side. It doesn't matter what side the new winger prefers to play on - I've argued for a while that Jonás would benefit from switching sides, and if Jose Enrique leaves, he'll be free to do so.
Priority #5: Depth Everywhere Else
Newcastle was bitten hard by the injury bug down the stretch, and there's no way to have a foolproof contingency plan in place for every injury situation that comes up. Still, depth at nearly every position was a problem. Let's put it another way: I feel comfortable with the depth at exactly one position with the team constructed the way it is right now, and that's goalie, where we have a genuine controversy on our hands. Of course, that's one of those "good problems," as the cliche goes, and it sure would be nice to have some more of those.
What positions of need do you see? Tell us in the comments.