Jan Vertonghen, come on down!
Through the course of the season and with particular note of the January transfer window, I have come to believe that Alan Pardew puts more truth out there through his quotes to media than perhaps the majority of Premier League managers. For my Saturday morning "link" offering, I have run across another piece from Alan Pardew that may filter out a number of the rumors out there (or keep some of the rumors breathing?).
Reestablishing what we know, AP has told us that if we qualify for Europe (check) we will be looking to bring in 4 or 5 players. We already know one of those players is Romain Amalfitano from Reims in the French second division. The remaining spots have been linked to players from Douglas of FC Twente, who has been a long time connection with the Toon, to Raul of Schalke 04, who is about as unlikely a purchase as is David Silva but for different reasons. We also know that if a certain level of ridiculous is met in offers for our better players, they will be shipped out. I think that although we as a community here at CHN would prefer not to, Cheik Tiote is probably on the short list of players most likely to be sold on. We also know that Danny Simpson has been told he can move on which creates a new hole on a back line that is our biggest question mark despite 15 clean sheets having been kept this year. Other players who have been linked away include Tim Krul, Yohan Cabaye, Demba Ba and even Papiss Cisse. Given the recent thinning of the ranks at the youth level in addition to other holes in the senior squad, it seems that unless someone offers Benign Ponytail money for Tim Krul, he's probably least likely on that list to be moved. Let's look at this interview from yesterday on BBC Sport and see if we can bring some small, small amount of clarity to the close season.
"I am contemplating bringing in someone because we don't have a dominant header of the ball. On the scouting front we are looking at a centre-half who can come and score us eight goals next season," he added. "If we didn't have Demba Ba we wouldn't have Papiss Cisse and we are trying to bring another player to the club who is close to Yohan Cabaye. That is another little connection and a bit of a clue for you."
I have clipped the very short part of this article that deals most directly in giving us clues with regard to the transfer targets and will jump into them one at a time.
We are looking at a centre-half who can come and score us 8 goals next season
This information sounds very exciting, but does not lead us to anyone new. I checked through the most likely leagues that we would be purchasing a centre-half from (namely the top flights of Portugal, Spain, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Italy... I have even checked through the Premier League just to see although it is unlikely we have shown reluctance to buy from within the PL) to tie down exactly how many 8-goal centre-halves are out there. Remember that I am working from a very literal interpretation of the words of AP. I came up with exactly two possibilities for an 8-goal centre-half based on this year's results:
- Jan Vertonghen - Ajax (Netherlands)
- Claudio - Gil Vicente (Portugal)
The first of these names is familiar. We've been linked with him before though the heat in the rumors has died a touch as rumored interest in the player from Arsenal and other big players has increased lately. The second name, Claudio, I am going to go ahead and feel comfortable in ruling straight out. Claudio is a 34 year old playing on a lower-half team in Portugal's first division. 8 goals fits. Age and other surface detail? Not so much.
That is another little connection and a bit of a clue for you
Reading these quotes is kind of like the old logic puzzles that I used to do- you know the kind where you have statements of fact and a grid for X and O marking of what you can figure through a combination of deductive and inductive reasoning. Clearly we don't have enough information to fill in the whole grid, but we can figure a couple of things from this particular statement.
"[A] player that is close to Yohan Cabaye" - we can gather two bits of information from this:
- Mathieu Debuchy is still very much in the frame. Surely there are other players with links to Yohan, but working from the information that we have, this is the guy that fits.
- We are not likely to sell Yohan Cabaye during the close season.
Fortunately, the clues left by Alan Pardew rule him out of a career in crime because someone sharper than myself would find him out instantly. However, I think that we can focus down the list a little bit and start separating wheat rumors from chaff rumors.
A Working List Of Most Likely Transfer Purchases
1. Romain Amalfitano (CM) - As far as we know, this is a done deal and he's coming on a free. That doesn't mean, of course, that it opens up another transfer spot and it likely won't.
2. Jan Vertonghen (CB) - If we are indeed still in on Vertonghen (which I believe we are if AP is leading us directly to him like this), we're going to face a fight for sure. A very literal interpretation of AP's words, however, are reason for hope.
3. Mathieu Debuchy (RB) - With Danny Simpson's potential departure, we are able to offer Debuchy a starting spot, Europe and Yohan Cabaye. If I were him, I'd listen. Acquiring a pure right back allows us to keep Davide Santon on the left where he and Jonas have developed an excellent working relationship.
4. Douglas (CB) - I don't know if we buy two CBs in the close season. It would seem more likely that we'd buy a prospect before an established starter if we do. Of course, if Vertonghen is out of the picture, this is the guy.
If Chips Fall In A Specific Manner
Players like Erik Pieters are still very viable and interesting options. The difficulty here is that I don't feel that we'll acquire 5 players. Unless we can pick up a Demba Ba-like free I don't see a new forward/striker coming in over the summer (see next section for some words on this), so the midfield and back line rumors are going to be the most pertinent and interesting. As I mentioned before, I don't see Douglas coming if Vertonghen is signed by Newcastle and at that point, I think Erik Pieters becomes the next name on the list... the question becomes will he come if he is looking at being behind (or at best competing with) Davide Santon on the left side?
Assumptions About The Newcastle Squad
For purposes of this little exercise, I have assumed the following departures. All of these have been rumored this week, so I'm not taking any credit here...just limiting attrition to this list:
Additional departures could well shape the numbers 4 and 5 (if applicable) slots in the working list, but I don't see additional departures being a big factor. Dan Gosling could very well be on the way out, but we're still looking at Haris Vuckic and Mehdi Abeid who we know AP views as being nearly ready for the bright lights and we've got Romain Amalfitano coming in to the mix as well. I think easing up the log jam in the center just a tiny bit is going to keep young players happier and keep the squad unity on the up.
If Leon Best is indeed sold on, I think that it would indicate that Peter Lovenkrands will be kept on, but this is just conjecture founded on nothing besides the idea that I don't think we're bringing in a forward.
Although the club have astounded us in recent times with their serial addressing of transfers one transfer window later than we feel they should have done, it looks like the focus is very squarely on the back line this summer, right where it should be.