It’s not often that the managing director of a Premier League team admits failure. It was therefore a welcome change of pace when Derek Llambias conceded to Lee Ryder at The Chronicle that the board “made a mistake” when Vernon Anita was the only senior player to arrive in the summer transfer window of 2012.
Newcastle failed to build on their excellent showing last year and were then decimated by injuries. A lack of depth at key positions left them struggling just above the bottom three, and it took a busy January window to rectify the situation.
The Magpies are now on an upward trajectory, with the likes of Moussa Sissoko, Yoan Gouffran, Mat Debuchy and Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa already making a mark in the first team. Previously injured players like Hatem Ben Arfa and Yohan Cabaye are now returning, and the team looks to have the sort of depth fans were screaming for at the beginning of the season.
This flurry of new arrivals leads the more cynical of football fans to surmise that this summer will see no money leaving St James’ Park—and Mike Ashley sleeping with his arms curled protectively around his cheque book.
While it’s difficult to see a scenario where the Toon spend big, there looks to be a lesson learned from the disastrous offseason of 2012.
Reports are already emerging of summer plans, whether they relate to players arriving or leaving Tyneside. At this early stage, there are going to be some wildly off-target suggestions, but it’s worth having a look at some of the more dominant rumours recently reaching our ears.
Stefan de Vrij
Newcastle have their own problems in that area, with captain Fabricio Coloccini appearing desperate to return to Argentina as soon as possible. De Vrij has 16 months left on his Feyenoord contract, and Sky.TyneAndWear.com estimated that it would take around £8 million to lure him away from the Netherlands.
The same article—from December 2012—added Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea to the teams interested in the 20-year-old central defender, so Alan Pardew could find himself in a bidding war he is unable to win.
However, that number of teams will fluctuate as the summer draws near, and it’s then a matter of getting the right player for the right price.
This is one rumour that could yield great results for Newcastle, and the early signs point to genuine interest.
Since returning from injury, Yohan Cabaye has been just as important as the new signings in terms of influencing the outcome of games. If these performances continue for the rest of the season, the Magpies will face a fight to keep their star midfielder.
The rumour mill is already turning, and The Daily Express seems to think that Arsene Wenger is preparing to open his £70 million war chest and drag £15 million from it to secure Cabaye’s services.
The same article also names Sir Alex Ferguson as an admirer of the French player, with the Manchester United manager reportedly sending his winged monkeys to Newcastle to bring him reports.
The way Cabaye has run the midfield since his return has been impressive. He’s shown great vision with his passing as well as remaining strong under pressure. That sort of determination and skill will win games in the Premier League, and Newcastle are starting to do that under Cabaye.
This won’t be the last of the reports linking Cabaye with a move away from St James’ Park, and it remains uncertain whether the club could refuse a big-money offer from a side like Arsenal or Manchester United.
However, Newcastle finally look to be settled, and the large number of French players at the club will surely work in their favour when looking to retain Cabaye. An offer from Arsenal would be tempting, obviously, but for now, Tyneside should remain Cabaye’s home.
Hatem Ben Arfa/Andy Carroll
As long as Andy Carroll remains out of favour on Merseyside, there will be rumours linking him with a move back to his home county.
These reports were lent extra credence at the beginning of February when Llambias revealed to The Chronicle that “we’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for Andy here. He’s a character and he’s getting older and more mature – and he’s stronger… He’s still got a house up here. Andy was part and parcel of our growth.”
Carroll is yet to find his feet at either Liverpool or West Ham, and should he fail to secure a permanent move to London, returning home would likely be high on his list. In January, he posted a picture of the Angel of the North to his Twitter account, with the caption “Home Sweet Home!”—it’s clear his love for the city remains undiminished.
The stumbling block in all this is that Liverpool are apparently looking to gain Ben Arfa out of any deal involving Carroll and the Toon. The Daily Mail state that Newcastle are looking to sign Ben Arfa to a long-term deal in order to stave off bids for their French star.
Again, the recent influx of French players will add to his sense of comfort on Tyneside, but it’s also clear that he remains a focal point of the Newcastle attack, despite his injuries this year. The future of Newcastle United involves a big contribution from Ben Arfa, and he can be hugely successful there.
As much as many Newcastle fans would love to see Carroll back in black and white, losing Ben Arfa to achieve it won’t be acceptable. The fans were bitter when Carroll left, so a return that sees another fan-favourite leave isn’t going to endear him to them again.
If the Toon can tie Ben Arfa to a new deal, and West Ham fail to complete their £17 million deal for Carroll, it’s likely that Rodgers would let Carroll leave for around £12 million.
Gaining £35 million for a player and buying him back two years later for less than half that amount is the sort of business that Ashley would be very interested in.
A striker that is exceptional in the air and good at holding up the ball for his partner is exactly what Papiss Cisse requires to succeed, so this is a rumour that could yet be heading somewhere.