Potential 13/14 Squad Problems and the Homegrown Rule

Originally a forum thread by Cal, click here to read/comment.

It looks like we’re going to have to sell some of our non-homegrown players in upcoming windows, or start to recruit more Englishmen.

For those who aren’t aware, the homegrown rule requires our squad to have a minimum of 8 ‘homegrown’ players in our 25 man Premier League squad, although the numbers can be made up by including any under-21 player in the squad list and they count as ‘homegrown’. In effect this means that the true limit is 17 non-homegrown players who are over 21 at the start of the season.

A ‘homegrown’ player is a player who “irrespective of nationality or age, has been affiliated to the FA or Welsh FA for a period of three seasons or 36 months prior to 21st birthday”, which can also include the season of them turning 21.

Let’s take a look at our prospective squad for the the 1st July 13, in a hypothetical world where we make three or four heavily rumoured signings this window.

Non-homegrown
01 – Cabaye
02 – Anita
03 – Cissé
04 – Ben Arfa
05 – Amalfitano
06 – Gutierrez
07 – Marveaux
08 – Tioté
09 – Obertan
10 – Debuchy
11 – Santon
12 – Yanga-Mbiwa
13 – Gouffran
14 – French CM
— Coloccini (going to leave?)
— Xisco (contract expires)

Presuming Coloccini is granted his leave between now and the summer, and Xisco isn’t retained, that leaves us with 14 non-homegrown players who would need a place in our squad, leaving us with up to 3 more spaces for non-homegrown players.

However we will also potentially have another two players who will classify as under 21 for that season, but become non-homegrown over 21 players in the coming seasons; a French LB and Mehdi Abeid.

We then have our homegrown contingent, these are players who count towards the homegrown quota, but as they’ll be classed as over 21 in 13/14, they must be named in the 25 man squad to represent us in the league.

Homegrown
01 – Williamson
02 – Perch
03 – Gosling
04 – R Taylor
05 – Krul
06 – Elliot
07 – Shola
08 – S Taylor
09 – Ranger
10 – Ferguson
— Simpson (contract expires)
— Harper (contract expires)

Presuming Simpson and Harper are not retained, we will have 10 homegrown players who need to be named in the 25 man squad, added to the previous 14 and we’re at 24/25 players, and the homegrown quota has been satisfied.

In this hypothetical world we face a problem; many of our homegrown contingent are our weaker/squad players, but we can only add up to three more non-homegrown players, at the expense of a two homegrown players (Ranger? Williamson? perhaps even Shola?) before we slam up against both the 25 man squad and the 17 non-homegrown player limits.

Unless we start to sell some of our mostly French imports, we’re going to have to start buying English, or otherwise homegrown, soon. Although we do have several players who will still be ‘under 21’ for 13/14, but will class as homegrown in the seasons after, but it’s anyone’s guess how many of these will actually make it.

U21s Who Will Be Homegrown
Bigirimana
Sammy
Vuckic
Tavernier
Inman
Dummett
Alnwick
Streete
Moyo (I think he will just qualify)
Knight
Campbell
(not an exhaustive list)

Obviously this is all hypothetical, and likely we will be clearing out more than just those who I’ve listed as expected to leave in the summer, but it’s still something to consider. Unless we start selling some of the foreign players we’ve plucked from overseas at bargain prices, as we go forward, especially if we intend to improve our squad further, we’re going to have to start paying the premium associated with English players if our youth set-up doesn’t produce the goods.

Where do Newcastle United go from here?

Originally a forum thread by TJR_NUFC. Click to read.

 

Before the Reading game pretty much everyone said six points from the next two games is a must, four at the very least. We haven’t even achieved four, never mind six, and to be perfectly honest, even three is looking extremely unlikely. It shows just how far we have fallen, when we were beating Chelsea 2-0 away from home last May and qualifying for Europe, and now in January when we haven’t won away from home all season and are expecting a convincing defeat to Villa. This, just after today’s defeat to Reading who haven’t won away from home all season until today. How has it gone all so horribly wrong this season for Newcastle United?

Rewind back to the summer. We had just finished 5th, and everyone associated with Newcastle United was on a high after a great season and European qualification. Newcastle United were getting lots of praise in the media for the way they played, we enhanced our reputation as a football club and Alan Pardew (or Pardiola as he was nicknamed) had just won the manager of the year award. We had just created the most perfect of all foundations to invest in the squad and really push the team on to the next level. What we should have done is spent some money and purchased players of a higher quality than we currently had. Not many only about two or three. Then we should have purchased again two or three players of a similar ability to that we already had. All of this without giving away our squad players. We could have had a squad that was strong in quality and depth to push on and perhaps challenge the top four. Unsurprisingly the other teams around our position last season, Spurs and Chelsea did this.

If we had done that, injury problems and extra games wouldn’t have had as much of an impact as we would have had quality depth in our squad so we could rotate players. It’s impossible to know but I think it’s highly likely that we would have stayed around the European qualification positions. Instead we decided to sign nowhere near enough players to build on our foundations, and we gave away some of our squad players which left us coming into the season with no change in terms of quality, whilst our competitors for the top five, Spurs and Chelsea, improved in terms of quality, and we were left with a small squad and extra games. Back to the present day , we are in 16th and two points above the drop zone, we’ve not won away all season and we’ve had a string of disappointing performances. The damage started back in the summer when, for whatever reason, we decided not to improve our squad nor build on the foundations we put down. An abysmal decision and it’s not as if I’m looking back at that and saying it in hindsight, I and many others said at the time that it was an abysmal decision.

That decision has meant that injuries have affected us more than they would have if we had a larger squad of decent players, and it has meant the extra games have taken a toll on the players because we don’t have the squad depth and quality to have a proper rotation policy. Not improving the squad in the summer is one of the main reasons for this decline, and a large contributing factor to the other arguments about injuries and extra games affecting our performances. It’s not as if we can fix that decision of not improving and investing in the squad now either as we have lost the appeal we would have had in the summer to players. We also refuse to compete financially with other clubs. The time has gone now, obviously we can still buy players but not of as high a quality as we could have in the summer, as a top player would have to be completely insane to sign for us now.

 

 

The other major contributing factor to our decline is Alan Pardew. His squad selections and formations have been baffling. When we had Cabaye and Ben Arfa fit we played a 4-4-2 they don’t perform as well in. Once Ben Arfa got injured we changed to a 4-2-3-1 and played Cisse, and now Shola, on the right. We should have played 4-4-2 against Reading when we had 2 strikers on the pitch, and when Ben Arfa was fit then used the 4-2-3-1 with Cisse, or Ba when we had him, through the middle. I can understand that he might prefer certain formations and want to stick by them, like this 4-2-3-1 he seems obsessed with, but you have to change it when it so obviously isn’t working. At the very least try it with players actually playing in their actual positions.

Worse than the formations and player selections, are the tactics that Pardew has us playing. We play hoofball too much; especially given that our midfield is our strongest area, we should play through them and allow them to do something a bit more creative. What annoys me more than anything though is the game plans. I will use the Reading game as an example since it’s fresh in everyone’s mind. Initially the plan was fine; go out there, dominate and constantly try to score. The keeper was in great form but we eventually got the goal anyway. In the second half Pardew sent the team out to defend the one goal lead. He might as well have walked the players to the Tyne Bridge and instructed them to jump off it one by one. It was absolutely suicidal! If you’re winning 3-0 at half-time I can see why you might set up to try and defend it. When you try and defend a one goal lead with half the match left, more often than not your negative approach is going to cost you your lead. You should play to score a second and then a third. Yes be more wary about the counter attack and don’t over commit players forward, but you certainly don’t set up to invite pressure on yourself and try to park the bus to protect your one goal lead. We always seem to do this when we go a goal up. The negative substitutions highlighted this; if your plan is to set up negatively to protect a goal you deserve to get beat.

What I probably hate most about Pardew are his consistently ridiculous substitutions. Just commenting on the Reading match; Pardew must have known Cabaye wouldn’t last the full 90mins, so there’s no use complaining over that one. What you can complain about is the negative substitution before that; taking Marveaux off when you know Cabaye is going to need substituting soon? You know your most creative player can’t last the full 90mins yet you bring off your second most creative player before that. How negative can you get?! Also everyone knows Shola doesn’t have the legs for 90mins so why not keep Marveaux on, take Shola off for Obertan and then when Cabaye needs to come off, put on Bigirimana/Perch in his place? That way we would have kept some creativity.

 

 

The final negative about Pardew I want to highlight is his use of excuses, and come to think of it I actually hate these more than his substitutions. His first excuse was that we had played on Thursday. Fair enough, but as I’ve already highlighted we should have strengthened in the summer so this wouldn’t be an issue. Unfortunately we didn’t. Also this has only happened before for what six or so league games? It’s not as if you can use the excuse regularly, he should have adapted by now. The next excuse is that we’ve had lots of injuries. Again, fair enough, but the solution to the last problem would also solve this one. Excuse number three; “we were unlucky”. F*** off. If you didn’t set up so negatively to defend narrow lead or draws we wouldn’t concede loads towards the end of the game. Playing poorly for the whole match doesn’t count as us been unlucky either. Finally, the latest excuse is that it’s the fans’ fault we lost. Are you trying to get yourself sacked Alan? How is it the fans’ fault you play a formation that isn’t working, that you play people out of position or that your substitutes are negative. Yes the fans shouldn’t boo the substitutions and generally up until today they haven’t, so how come we’ve lost so many other games this season? I don’t agree with the booing but I certainly understand it, and you can’t say the fans don’t have a right to show discontent.

Basically the first two wouldn’t be issues if we weren’t so incompetent in the summer, and I don’t think that’s anything to do with Pardew. The third excuse is Pardew’s code for I messed up big time and the fourth excuse hints that Pardew has completely lost it.

Where do we go from here? As far as I can see there are two options we can take, both have advantages and disadvantages. Option #1; keep Pardew. Option #2; sack Pardew.

The disadvantages of keeping Pardew are what I’ve just mentioned but the advantages are that this is his squad, he knows them better than anyone and as he showed last year he is capable of getting them to perform. Also I’m not a fan of changing manager’s mid-way through as season as it disrupts the whole squad and has the potential to cause upset amongst the players. With a few new signings and with Ben Arfa, Saylor and Tiote back Pardew could keep us up.

The advantage of sacking Pardew now is that we can bring someone in with enough time to make a difference. Also the transfer market is still open, although rapidly drawing to a close, so he can perhaps bring in the players he wants. When he comes in there is every chance that the initial boost from the appointment of a new manager will cause the players to up their performances. The disadvantages are that it feels wrong abandoning Pardew after all he’s done for us when he still could keep us up. Also who would we end up with, another Joe Kinnear? Who in their right mind would agree to board and take charge of this sinking ship? Also, it’s no guarantee that a new manager will keep us up.

Personally I can see the advantages of both and I won’t be overly upset with either option. I’m extremely angry and disappointed with Pardew, but I’d still prefer to keep him. I know it doesn’t look like it at the minute but I think he will keep us up, whereas I’m not so sure Joe Kinnear, Nigel Adkins, or whoever else would. Anything less than three points from Villa Park though and my opinion may change.

Demba Ba – The Archetypal 21st Century Centre Forward

The summer of 2011 was shaping up to be one of discontent for Newcastle United fans. In recent months the club had sacked Chris Hughton, their most popular manager since Sir Bobby Robson, a big hit with both players and fans. He was replaced almost immediately by Alan Pardew, and soon followed out the door by  talismanic number 9 Andy Carroll.

Lacking a star striker, Newcastle had limped to the end of the season. The fans were disillusioned with the club’s heirarchy and their new choice of manager, and several key players were strongly tipped to leave, the club was in desperate need of a new hero, preferably one worthy of the fabled number 9 vacated by Andy Carroll.

The club turned to free agent Demba Ba. Ba had arrived in England six months earlier, hampered in his pursuit for Premier League football by concerns over an old knee injury which had scuppered a move to Stoke. Ba joined struggling West Ham and made an immediate impression, scoring seven times in twelve games for The Hammers, catching the eye with some explosive performances, before relegation released him from his contract and paved the way for a move to Newcastle.

Ba made a slow start to his Newcastle career, possibly hindered by his observance of Ramadan at the start of the season, but he exploded into life against Blackburn, scoring a hatrick in front of a jubilant St James’ Park crowd. A month later, Ba visited Stoke for the first time since being turned down by the club almost a year before. In light of Ba’s good form, the wisdom of Stoke’s decision to turn him away was strongly questioned, leading Tony Pulis to brand Ba’s knee a ticking timebomb. Ba was booed throughout the game, but silenced the home crowd by notching his second hatrick of the season, and firing Newcastle to third place in the league.

Newcastle’s form began to tail off as the injuries piled up, but Ba remained unstoppable, taking his goal tally to 14 by the new year, including a magnificent free kick against West Brom and a beautifully taken brace at Norwich.

Ba left for the African Cup of Nations in January, but not before inspiring Newcastle to an emphatic 3-0 win over Man Utd. While away at the AFCoN, Newcastle completed the signing of Senegalese team mate Papiss Cisse, leaving fans with a tantalising wait for the two to return from international duty.

It was during this wait that then Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp was able to reveal with unerring accuracy the full terms of Ba’s contract, which was said to include a £7m buyout clause and a £2m loyalty bonus. From that moment on the story of Ba’s career on Tyneside was to have a subplot, with him being continually linked with a move away. With Ba’s form and modest buyout clause making him a hot property in the transfer market, and the player’s personal bonus giving him every incentive to leave, it was inevitable Ba’s time on Tyneside would be short lived.

When he had arrived at the club Ba had been handed the number 19 shirt. Pardew later revealed he was never offered the number 9 because he felt the fans wouldn’t take kindly to a free agent replacing a man sold for £35m. However, in light of Ba’s precarious contract situation it’s more likely the club wanted to avoid the situation of a few months previous when a cherished number 9 turned his back on the club to collect a more lucrative salary elsewhere. Papiss Cisse was instead given the vacant shirt.

The two strikers featured together for the first time against Aston Villa, with both of them netting in a 2-1 win, it appeared to be the start of a very fruitful partnership but that wasn’t to be the case.

Ba failed to score again that season, as Cisse took centre stage with a series of magnificent finishes that saw him end the season with 13 goals in 14 games, including a spectacular effort against Chelsea which was to later be voted Goal of the Season.

Cisse’s arrival and Hatem Ben Arfa’s return to full fitness gave Newcastle a second wind as the team stormed to a fifth place finish, securing European Football for the following season. It was a remarkable achievement considering it was only the club’s second season back in the Premier League following relegation.

But for some the celebrations seemed subdued. During a lacklustre performance against Bolton Ba was withdrawn midway through the second half, and did little to hide his displeasure as he left the pitch. Ben Arfa went on to break the deadlock with a sensational solo effort, before Cisse sealed the win with a goal late on, a goal which only appeared to compound Ba’s fury – as his teammates celebrated around him, Ba was unmoved on the bench, wearing the same grumpy expression he’d stormed off the pitch with.

Each laboured performance was proving doubly damaging to Ba’s reputation when compared to the blistering form of his compatriot, his £2m bounty was drifting out of reach. Ba’s discontent was obvious, and in the close season he demanded to be shifted back inside to his favoured central position, having been deployed on the left or in the hole since Cisse’s arrival, it was a demand Pardew yielded to.

Ba was moved to centre forward and it was Cisse’s turn to toil in an unfamiliar role. Ba rose to the occasion, rediscovering his form of a year earlier, scoring 13 goals for a misfiring Newcastle side in the first half of the season.

Suddenly a move was back on the cards.

With Newcastle struggling and Ba thriving, talk of his departure from the club reached fever pitch, with Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham, Liverpool and QPR all linked. Ba made no secret of his desire to move, telling French newspaper Canal+ about the allure of Arsenal and Paris Saint-Germain. His network of representatives began to brazenly hawk their client to potential suitors, revealing they were in talks with Chelsea and making it clear they would move onto other clubs if the talks proved unsuccessful.

In the new year Ba was left out of the Newcastle squad to face Everton, after Chelsea made a formal bid for the player and he travelled down to London to finalise the deal.

And so Demba Ba’s Newcastle career was over.

He had arrived at a beleaguered Newcastle and helped steer the club into Europe once more. The stage was set for Ba to cement his place in club folklore and follow in the footsteps of Alan Shearer, Malcolm Macdonald and Jackie Milburn among others. The ball was in Ba’s court, as he’d made sure it was when he first put pen to paper, but he chose instead to add his name to the ever growing list of talented, money-oriented strikers who turned their backs on the club, following in the footsteps of Michael Owen and Andy Carroll. It’s a disappointing consequence of the sport being flooded with money in recent years and unfortunately it’s something Newcastle fans have become all too familiar with.

In Ba’s absence the onus will once again fall on Papiss Cisse to score Newcastle’s goals. In his preferred role there’s no doubting his ability and he’ll be confident of ending this season the way he ended the last.

On the face of it the two strikers have much in common, both prolific goalscorers, both Senegal internationals, and the two were born barely a week apart. The crucial difference though is in what motivates them; Ba’s primary concern is in amassing a fortune before he retires, whilst Cisse has an apparent love and enthusiasm for the game, his modest beginnings making him appreciate what he has rather than covet what he hasn’t. That’s why one was made a number 19 and the other a number 9.