Paul Merson says Newcastle still face a huge fight to stay in the Premier League despite a £93m spending spree in the January transfer window.
Newcastle emerged as the January window’s biggest spenders with the signings of Bruno Guimaraes, Chris Wood, Kieran Trippier and Dan Burn, while Matt Targett also arrived at St James’ Park on loan.
With the side embroiled in a relegation battle, the club’s new owners will be hoping their new signings can supply an instant boost to their quest for survival, but Merson, speaking to Sky Sports, was left slightly bemused by the club’s January business, saying they could rue missing out on signing another forward.
Meanwhile, former Arsenal forward Merson gives his verdict on the club’s transfer window, which saw six members of Mikel Arteta’s first-team squad, including former captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, leave the Emirates Stadium.
Read on for the Magic Man’s column in full…
Did Newcastle do enough in January?
There was a lot of money spent in the transfer window and the bottom five in the Premier League spent half of it. That tells you everything about the desperation to stay in the top flight.
Only time will tell regarding Newcastle’s transfer window.
All I can say is that if Steve Bruce had bought in all these players there would have been uproar, and I think that tells you everything you need to know.
If they’d have managed to get Jesse Lingard in that would have been the player with the X-factor they needed, but that hasn’t happened.
They haven’t bought in that player with a real point of difference in the forward positions. They have bought in players to be more solid, but it is okay being solid, you need that X-factor as well, and I think they may struggle putting the ball in the back of the net.
‘Jury still out on Newcastle’s business’
I still think the jury is out on the business they did in January. It’s safe. It doesn’t really excite me.
They have got solid players in, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t see 18 0-0 draws keeping you up. It may be enough, but I’m just not convinced.
Newcastle were always saying they wanted two forwards, but they only got Chris Wood, and I think that might prove costly.
They are going to be tight at the back and I think Eddie Howe looked at it and thought you can’t win football matches letting in two or three goals. You just can’t do that and only Norwich have let more goals in this season in the Premier League.
He’s thinking that as long as we can keep clean sheets we’ve got a chance if Allan Saint-Maximin can produce a bit of magic or someone else might step up and we might nick a game 1-0 like they did at Leeds. If you keep a clean sheet you have always got a chance and that’s how Newcastle have approached the window.
They’ve bought in two steady full-backs, Dan Burn ticks plenty of boxes and that has created a solid back line.
Bruno Guimaraes, who knows? He’s never played in the Premier League before, and he could be an absolute gem of a player and we’ll sit back and think what a result Newcastle had in getting him. We’ll be left asking why didn’t any of the big boys go for him. Or they could go down and we’ll be saying they needed to get someone who was ready-made for the Premier League.
And that’s why we’ll only know if this window was a success over time and if they stay up.
‘It’s not a definite Newcastle stay up’
I just don’t think they are a shoo-in to stay up. When you’ve spent all the money they have, I’d expect them to be a definite to stay up, but I just don’t see that.
I look at Roy Hodgson going in at Watford. He’s going to get them solid at the back and for me, anyone of Watford’s forward players in Ismaila Sarr, Emmanuel Dennis, Josh King and Joao Pedro would get into the Newcastle team.
Any of them would play up front with Callum Wilson unavailable, and that’s how you’ve got to weigh it up.
Hodgson will tighten Watford up and then you’ve got those four, who will nick a goal.
‘Missing out on Lingard could prove costly’
Not getting Lingard in may come back to haunt Newcastle.
You don’t know what was going on, you don’t know what Lingard wanted and you don’t know what Manchester United wanted.
It may just turn out now that Lingard may get his chance at United, and that’s why he is staying put.
Anthony Martial has gone, Donny van de Beek also left the club, and if anyone else gets injured they could quite easily be left playing Cristiano Ronaldo and Edinson Cavani up front again, and I don’t think that would work for the next 18 games.
Lingard staying does make sense for Man Utd, but not getting him could prove to be a big regret for Newcastle.
Arsenal’s rebuild is in full swing…
Arsenal have had a clear out. They didn’t get European football for the first time in I don’t know how many years, and they’ve put their foot down.
If you keep on doing the same things, you get the same results. That’s the same for anything in life. That is what Arsenal have been doing for too many years now, and finally, they’ve drawn a line in the sand.
They changed it all up by getting rid of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and other players, who are not going to get you anywhere near the top four of the Premier League or even winning the league.
It now might take time, but they have started now and that’s a massive bonus. They have properly started the rebuild now.
‘Consistency the key for the Gunners’
Arsenal bought really well last summer. There isn’t a single player they bought in last summer that has flopped. They have all been successes and they’ll now be working behind the scenes for next summer where they will look to go again and get the players they need.
This season let’s see. They only have 17 games left and that is on the whole, one game a week. They’ve just got to get some consistency.
We are only talking a few weeks ago about them playing Manchester City off the park.
Three weeks later and all of a sudden, they can’t score at home against Burnley and bar the last minute they never looked like scoring.
So, that’s the inconsistency and over time these young players will learn how to be more consistent.
These players now know they are going to be playing. These young players will be better for another 17 league games and next season instead of being nine out of 10 one week and five out of 10 another, we’ll start seeing seven out of 10 and eight out of 10 more regularly.
That’s all you need. You need consistency and then you have players that can win you games. At the flick of a switch.
‘Arsenal must show they have learnt from past mistakes’
I think things are really positive for Arsenal at the moment. What they’ve done cannot be seen as anything but good for the club.
Now, if Alexandre Lacazette goes and gets 10 goals before the end of the season, they can’t get lazy and just give him a new deal worth £250,000-a-week, thinking it might be his season next season. However, for me, Lacazette has had his time at Arsenal. Whatever he does between now and the end of the season, he’s had his chance at the Emirates Stadium.
What Arsenal now need to start doing is working on not letting happen what has happened too many times in the past when as an Arsenal fan, you are watching these bright young stars in action, and then all of a sudden you see I the press that they’ve only got a year left on their contracts.
That cannot happen anymore. They’ve got to keep on topping up players’ contracts. They have good young players, and they need to keep on top of their contracts. They can’t get lazy and have players run down their contracts and eventually leaving on a free.
They need to show they have learnt from the mistakes of the past and get these players tied down so that they are playing their best years at Arsenal.
They have got a good, young squad and if you can add another couple of top-quality signings for next season, I think there are happier times to come for Arsenal. Positive times are around the corner.