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The French Are Coming….to Newcastle?

As we approach the end of the January Transfer Window it is Newcastle who have been amongst the busiest so far. Having added five players from Ligue 1 Newcastle now have ten outfield French players in their squad. Given the relatively low fees spent on these players it looks likely that Newcastle will add at least a couple more players to the side before the window closes. They may well be coming from France too, with St. Etienne stating they have rejected a bit from Newcastle for striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. The succession of players arriving in the north east from Ligue 1 is not surprising. Yohan Cabaye and Hatem Ben Arfa arrived the previous season from France and were key components in the side that finished fifth and qualified for the Europa League. It should also be no surprise that not a single Englishman has been mentioned with a move to Newcastle (bar an early season bid to resign Andy Carroll that never looked likely to happen). The question here is why? Three reasons come to mind: Newcastle’s excellent scouting network (that can include finding Cisse and Tiote), the lack of talented English players raising the cost of those scarcely available and the general state of football in France.

A recent article by Daniel Storey at Football365 highlighted the strength of Newcastle’s scouting network in one simple equation:

Debuchy + Yanga-Mbiwa + Cabaye + Ben Arfa + Tiote + Cisse = Andy Carroll

The policy of spending only what you earn has become increasingly a thing of the past in the Premier League so in this endeavor Newcastle should be applauded. That being said, in order for a sustainable financial model to not only work but be successful their needs to be significant talent known and available on the cheap. This is where Newcastle’s scouting department have been so vital. The extensive network have seen the opportune time to sign a player as important  as identifying the player themselves, with a couple of the new arrivals approaching the end of their contracts and able to leave for nothing when the summer arrives. The signing of Cisse in January 2012 was probably instrumental to Newcastle maintaining their performances, especially with Demba Ba hitting a poor run of form that Chelsea seem to have forgotten about. Whilst Cisse was already an international player before his arrival on these shores, few (aside from the FM diehards and viewers of Bundesliga highlights) had heard of him. Debuchy is probably the most recognisable of the new recruits, but lets hope one of the lesser known turns out to be gold for Newcastle fans.

The Andy Carroll equation also highlights why Newcastle won’t be signing any potential England stars this window. Fiscally speaking, there is no sense in buying from another English side when a foreign team had a player just as good and available at a fraction of the price. I’m sure every fan would like to see their team play with a squad full of homegrown players but this just isn’t likely anymore, especially with the amount of money involved in the Premier League as Chairman concern themselves with maintaining their status as a Premiership side more so than seeing a squad of untried youngsters on the pitch. If we take Andy Carroll as an example, filling a whole team full of young, promising English players, bought from other sides in the league will financially cripple even the most oil rich sides. In addition to this, the simple fact is there is just not enough players coming through the youth teams at the moment to alleviate this. Alan Pardew admitted in a recent interview that this is not where he wants to be taking Newcastle, but that players from Newcastle’s Academy just hadn’t made the step up. In 2006, Pardew criticised Arsenal for a lack of domestic representatives on the pitch. Now Arsenal have just tied down their British talent to long term contracts whilst Newcastle search for the best available abroad.

It terms of the state of French football, it was expected when Paris St. Germain were taken over by Qatar Sports Investments that the standard of football would rise in a bid to prevent a total dominance on the pitch by the newest megabucks side in Europe. Whilst Montpellier pulled off a remarkable achievement in winning the league last season (all the more so to anyone who has ever seen John Utaka play) the situation in France cannot be said to have improved. Montpellier saw their star striker depart for Arsenal and have failed to live up to expectations this year. Whilst Paris St. Germain have yet to dominate in the league, they have asserted their new found power by far outspending their competitors. This seems unlikely to be tempered by UEFA’s Financial Fair Play either, with a reported £122m a year sponsorship deal with the Qatar Tourism Authority ensuring the spending will continue for at least the next four seasons. The expected dominance is expected to see a wave of young Frenchman depart for pastures new in a search for new challenges, and England is only a short journey away.

All these factors show why Newcastle’s French arrivals should have come as no surprise to anyone. Unless a sudden wave of youngsters come through the Newcastle Academy, or finance in French football suddenly begins to compete with the Premier League on the whole, it looks likely that we will continue to see wave after wave of players coming across the channel.


Bad football joke of the week 2:


Ball boys need to learn about the potential Hazards of the role. A Chelsea player nearly kicked a kid’s ‘Eden

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