Friday, 7 October 2011

Why Newcastle’s transfer strategy is shrewd rather than ‘brainless’

There is something odd about Newcastle’s start to the season. Everyone had written Newcastle off. Most thought the team would be languishing in and around the bottom half of the table. While, rather brutally, some wanted the team to fail, as the club sold their best players rather enthusiastically and replaced them with talented players who have little Premier League experience

But the team have surprised everyone and have started the season in defiant fashion. After 7 games, Newcastle find themselves fourth and still unbeaten.

What’s more enlightening for the Newcastle fans is that the team look very balanced and cohesive. The side appear to have a fair spread of technical quality in a variety of positions.
Indeed, the season is still young, but this Newcastle side continue to have a growing potent and competitive bite.

One could argue a sector of this success is down to Newcastle’s transfer policy. However, because of the way the policy has been handled by the club, especially the sale of Newcastle players. People have condemned Newcastle’s strategy as ‘suicidal,’ ‘brainless’ and ‘utterly stupid.’
But if one takes a look at the players who arrived to the club, Newcastle’s ‘brainless’ strategy is filled with logic.
Mehdi Abeid
Yohan Cabaye
Demba Ba
West Ham
Sylvain Marveaux
Gabriel Obertan
Manchester United
Davide Santon
Rob Elliot
Total players signed - 7

Total Spent - £12.85mill
Looking at the players signed, a lot can be revealed about Newcastle’s logic behind their strategy. Of course, four out of the seven new signings suggest a hint of a French revolution going on at Newcastle. But there is more to it than just ‘signing French players.’

It’s clear the club are looking to buy technical players, who have arguably not fulfilled their potential for one reason or another, for a reasonable price. The theme of not fulfilling their potential can easily be connected to some of Newcastle’s signings in the past 18 months. Some of the players signed have a history of injury issues, consistency issues and professionalism problems. The likes of Marveaux, Santon, Ben Arfa, and Ba have all suffered from long term injury issues.

But the key in this policy, is signing technically gifted players, for a low price. This gives Newcastle the chance of building a team consisting of quality players who can successfully compete in the Premier League. Of course, signing players who are injury prone comes with a massive risk. These new players may continue to suffer from injuries, thus hindering them from performing for the club. Not only this, if a player is continuously injured, it will have an effect on his sell on price, which could mean Newcastle could be selling at losses.

The principle Newcastle have pursued this strategy regardless of the players history of injuries it’s evident the board are willing to take a gamble.

Indeed, Newcastle’s transfer strategy contrasts rather dramatically to the strategies chosen by Liverpool and Manchester United. Both United and Liverpool have taken an active search for signing home grown players, whereas Newcastle have looked aboard to fill their squads. In fact, 57% Newcastle’s new signings this summer have come from abroad.

Again, there is great common sense in looking abroad especially in this current economic climate in football.

There is no denying that the English market is incredibly hyper inflated at the moment. The massive multi million pound sales of untested, unproven and inexperienced English youngsters have driven the value of Premier League players to a sky high level.

Perhaps this explains why Newcastle United have been searching nations such as France, Portugal, and Germany amongst others countries. These markets offer more value for money, and one could argue, they offer far more technically gifted players too.

Furthermore, another virtue of signing players based in France, Germany and Portugal is that the Premier League is held in a higher regard, in terms of reputation and economics. This means that players from the very best of France or Portugal are more likely to seriously consider an offer from a decent Premier League side such as Newcastle. Even regardless of the club’s last few years of underachievement. The perspective player knows they will get the chance to play in one the world’s most reputable and competitive leagues. Not only this, playing in the Premier League often means a substantial pay rise in comparison to the top leagues in other nations such as France or Portugal.
Newcastle’s transfer strategy has been well thought out and has not been constructed on impulse or panic buys. Undeniably, the strategy was born well before Alan Pardew joined the club.

A glance at Newcastle’s transfers in the 2010/11 season, which Chris Houghton started the season in charge, the club signed the likes of Hatem Ben Arfa and Cheik Tiote.
One could argue, last season proved the strategy works for the club, as both players were highly impressive in their debut season.

But the principle that Newcastle’s strategy began well before the Pardew reign suggests the manager is not completely in control of transfers. This is especially clear when considering Alan Pardew. Firstly, in one of his earlier press conferences, Pardew stated he wanted to keep Andy Carroll at Newcastle, but a few months later, Carroll was sold. Another example is when the club were actively looking to sell Joey Barton, during this period Pardew continuously selected Barton in his Newcastle XI.

The odd element of the strategy is that there is no visible transfer orchestrator at Newcastle. The club are unwilling to assign anyone in the ‘director of football’ bracket, as it could reignite the bitter resentment and frustrations which the fans felt when Kevin Keegan resigned in 2008 because his authority was flouted by the presence of a director of football.

With hindsight, Chris Houghton could have been fired as he was unwilling to conform the board’s transfer strategy. While his successor Alan Pardew is known to have a good personal off the field relationship with Mike Ashley along with other members of the Newcastle board. So Pardew could be more willing to accept the strategy.

However, Newcastle’s board have been very successful in making a healthy profit in the past year.

The mere economics of Newcastle’s strategy symbolises that the club have been extremely shrewd with their dealings. For all the player changes which have happened this summer, in net spend, Newcastle United have spent just 850k for 7 players.

There is no denying Newcastle’s transfer policy takes a degree of risk. Signing certain players who have a history of injuries and have little Premier League experience could prove to be costly for The Toon Army.

But so far, the policy has been economically proficient, and has reaped rewards on the pitch.
This new look Newcastle side look assured, confident and solid.

Indeed, the strategy may have been handled badly especially the sale of key players, but there is logic and reasoning behind the players who have arrived at the club.

And with each positive result, the Newcastle revolution gets bigger and bigger.

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