Newcastle United’s interest in Remy Cabella makes for an easy Joe Kinnear gag somewhere – something along the lines of trying to get a two-for-one deal for Remy and Cab in the January transfer window.
While nothing would surprise you in the mad, bad world of Newcastle United, their very real interest in Montpellier’s versatile playmaker actually hints at something else entirely: evolution. And thank goodness for that.
Newcastle have become a credible, creditable side in the last two months and Alan Pardew has re-arranged some very talented players into a system that has been effective against the Premier League’s best. But their rope-a-dope strategy, which accounted effectively for Chelsea and Manchester United, was not nearly as damaging when it came to Arsenal in the days after Christmas.
Newcastle produced little and there was none of the conviction that there had been in the games against West Brom (at home), Southampton and Crystal Palace. Accusations of caution were levelled at United’s manager, who would quite rightly point to a manager-of-the-month award and Newcastle’s elevated league position as a counter-argument.
Perhaps he has a point but even he would admit that to prosper in the long-term, they need to add another element to their game in the second half of the season.
It is my belief that the impetus might be provided by a new recruit, as it was when Papiss Cisse was signed from Freiburg two years ago.
It was that, more than anything, that propelled the Magpies into the top five two years ago and it is something they are going to need to do in the latter stages of this campaign if they are to cling on to the coat-tails of the European challengers as those long winter evenings shorten. Enter Cabella, a player of international class who can be stationed in a creative role in the engine room or attack from the wings.
Now United may balk at Montpellier’s supposed £12m price tag (French sources suggest much, much less would get him), but the very fact that these names are being bandied about provides evidence that someone, somewhere in the St James’ Park hierarchy is looking at credible ways for the club to progress. Bravo.
As we know all too well though, in Ashley’s Newcastle seeing a player and doing something about it is something very different. Enter Kinnear, as it were.
Time is very much of the essence when it comes to a player like Cabella, also tracked by Tottenham and Manchester United – who desperately need a creative presence in their midfield. The indications given to the main men at St James’ Park are that Cabella prefers the guaranteed interest of Newcastle and the promise of first-team football than the uncertain prospect of possible dithering from Old Trafford, where he knows he’s a fair way down the wish-list.
Can Kinnear strike though? The dysfunction and dithering that typified the director of football’s efforts in the summer were acutely disappointing, appearing to confirm all the worst expectations of the former Wimbledon manager.
If he worked in most normal jobs, such a failure to deliver would have put him under pressure but he is Ashley’s ally and as such he remains bullet-proof. Still, that will only last so long, and if Newcastle start to move backwards then at least one part of the uneasy truce that has seen United from the start of the season to this point might be stretched to breaking point.
Ironically, this is the one month when Ashley didn’t need to shake it up. Newcastle have traditionally done pretty well in January, striking skilfully to land Cisse and Hatem Ben Arfa on cut-price deals before doing five smart deals last year.
Kinnear has a big job to do to match those exacting standards. We’re only three days into the window, but the clock is already ticking.