It would be an understatement to say that Newcastle United have struggled this year. A fifth-placed finish last season raised expectations and the impact of 'second-season syndrome' has hindered Alan Pardew’s side. Add in a gruelling Europa League campaign and an ever-growing injury list, and it's little wonder that Newcastle currently find themselves in 15th place, with just five wins and 11 losses in 21 games.
To make matters worse, star striker Demba Ba has just completed his move to Chelsea. According to a report in The Times, the Magpies will only receive around £3million of the fee with the player and his agents taking a large percentage. That may seem a paltry amount for a striker with 13 league goals to his name, but one must consider he was signed on a free transfer and on low wages - all part of United's new prudent transfer policy under Pardew.
With Mathieu Debuchy having signed a five-and-a-half-year contract after completing his move from Lille, Newcastle need to continue adding to their wafer thin squad as the January window progresses. Recent reports have linked them with West Ham’s Modibo Maiga, who has to yet to get going in the famous claret and blue, but was heavily scouted by Newcastle before he made the move across the channel from French side Sochaux.
Debuchy, 27, represents a slightly more established signing than Newcastle have previously pursued, and they must continue to look for diamonds in the rough if they are to make the most of their limited resources, and continue their policy of buy low, sell high.
Newcastle's chief scout Graham Carr, who signed an eight-year contract to keep him at the club until the age of 75 in June 2012, identified much of the talent that contributed towards last season's fifth-placed Premier League finish.
He picked out the likes of Hatem Ben Arfa, Cheick Tiote, Yohan Cabaye, Papiss Cisse and Sylvain Marveaux, all of whom were signed for less than their true market value. Carr and his recruitment department have managed to unearth a number of hidden gems that have made the seamless transition to life in the Premier League.
Ba was picked up on a free because nobody was willing to gamble on his chronic knee condition, Sylvain Marveaux was set to move to Liverpool before failing a medical, while Gabriel Obertan and Danny Simpson were snapped up from the Manchester United's reserves. While some signings were more successful than others, there were no big money flops.
Newcastle must be tempted to try and stretch themselves financially in order to fund a couple of high-profile signings that would help pull them away from relegation trouble, but sometimes when you take two steps forward, you have to take one back.
Pardew and the Geordie nation can view this season as that step back as they grapple with a limited set of resources, stretched to the maximum. Results should pick up, and Papiss Cisse will welcome a return to his central striking birth now his compatriot has secured his switch to Stamford Bridge.
As long as Newcastle can steer clear of the relegation zone in the next couple of months, and on paper their squad is plenty good enough despite their injury troubles, then Newcastle can look to the future safe in the knowledge that they'll be better off for coming through the trials and tribulations of the 2012/13 Premier League season unscathed.
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