Jonas Gutierrez has welcomed the arrival of Loic Remy, but warned he has catching up to do with Newcastle United much better prepared for this season than last.
Remy joined on a season-long loan from Queens Park Rangers on Monday but a calf strain kept him out of the following day’s friendly at Rangers. He is also expected to miss the Magpies’ final pre-season game, at home to Braga on Saturday. That makes him highly unlikely to start against Manchester City on the Premier League’s opening weekend.
With Newcastle’s attempts to sign Bafetimbi Gomis stalling, Remy could be the only summer addition to the forward line – but Gutierrez warned he cannot expect to come straight into the side when fit.
“He’s going to be a good striker for us,” commented the Argentinian, “but it will be hard for him to play, because Papiss (Cisse) has been doing the right things and working really hard. There’s going to be more competition this year because we also have Shola (Ameobi).
“All the strikers are going to have to work hard because players will arrive and want to go straight into the team. It’s important to have competition for places. All the players want to stay and if new players are going to come we have to work harder to keep our places.”
Ameobi has scored four goals in pre-season but, like Yoan Gouffran, who can expect to be used more as a centre-forward, his main job will probably be keeping others on their toes.
Gutierrez believes his team-mates are in better shape than 12 months ago.
“The most important thing is to be ready, to have the right preparation and to have all the group fit, because last year we started without some players and we finished without some and it was really hard,” said Gutierrez. “We had to sign five players in January because we had a lot of players injured. The most important thing is to get everyone fit and make sure if somebody does get injured, someone else is ready to come in and do the same job, if not better. Last season we didn’t expect to finish in that position (16th), but we had the Europa League and that was the first time for a lot of players to be involved in that and a league.
“But the good thing is we stayed in the Premier League and we have time to look forward to the new season and make sure we don’t make the same mistakes again.”
This pre-season has been more demanding, with manager Pardew explaining: “We’ve really pushed the players on the physical side. The sessions on Sunday and Monday were probably the hardest we’ve had.”
Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas has set an August 30 deadline for Newcastle to complete a deal for Gomis, but his earlier bullishness has faded, with agents dragging out the deal, perhaps fatally. “I believe if he does not go to Newcastle, the proposed solution will be much worse for him and his career,” Aulas said. “I am very disappointed the transfer could not be sorted out with Newcastle.”
Aulas is holding Marseille to blame, complaining to Ligue 1 that they tried to hijack the deal by approaching Gomis without Lyon’s permission.
Meanwhile, Davide Santon’s agent has claimed AC Milan tried to buy the full-back last season, but says they cannot afford him. “In January there was an attempt to sign him, but nothing came of it because of a lack of financial resources,” said Renzo Contratto.