Where do Newcastle need to strengthen?

Posted by Marc Duffy

Ian Horrocks/Newcastle United/Getty ImagesPapiss Cisse, left, Fabricio Coloccini, center, and Jonas Gutierrez are likely to form Newcastle's nucleus next season. That is one of the few certainties for the Magpies, whose supporters are nervous about the lack of activity in the transfer market.

The summer transfer window has barely been open a week and already an element of panic about the lack of incoming signings at Newcastle has gripped some of their supporters, understandable given last summer's underwhelming business.

Several players have left the club, with Steve Harper and Danny Simpson leaving after contract expiry and James Perch heading to Wigan. Reports have Dan Gosling linked with a move to Premier League newcomers Crystal Palace and he will become the fourth player to leave -- all of them English.

New director of football Joe Kinnear is on holiday now. He has earned his break after a tough two weeks in the job which has delivered a lot of (mostly inaccurate) brags and absolutely no positive transfer activity despite his claim that a player would be signed before Friday just gone -- unless he meant the signing of 16-year-old French midfielder Olivier Kemen, who arrived last week from Metz.

There has been no shortage of transfer rumours. Darren Bent, Arouna Kone, Wilfried Bony, Pierre Aubameyang and numerous others have been linked with a move to Tyneside, but the club often sign players from left field -- names not previously linked.

The Newcastle squad is high on numbers but threadbare in terms of quality -- a result of the 'purples' transfer policy implemented by Derek Llambias, a policy that failed the club so badly last season and was a big reason behind owner Mike Ashley's decision to appoint Kinnear, forcing Llambias out.

We all know Newcastle desperately need a striker to take some of the pressure away from Papiss Cisse, but where else should they be looking to strengthen? Recently the transfer policy seems to involve the acquisition of players if they're good enough or cheap enough regardless of position and need (see Vurnon Anita).

Goalkeepers

Newcastle are strong in this department when their keepers are healthy -- but they often aren't. The departure of Harper leaves Tim Krul and Rob Elliot, both of whom are currently injured.

Promising young England keeper Jak Alnwick is third choice at the moment but we might see another young keeper arrive, especially if Krul and/or Elliot miss the start of the season.

Full-Backs

Danny Simpson and James Perch have gone, and both played full-back last season. Matthieu Debuchy, Massadio Haidara and Davide Santon remain while Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa also played full back a few times after arriving in January.

Even with Perch and Simpson available last season, we saw Shane Ferguson, Jonas Gutierrez, Paul Dummett and James Tavernier fill in, but none are good enough in that position to be relied upon.

Anita looked very good at right back against Aston Villa but manager Alan Pardew doesn't seem to fancy him there -- or in any other position, for that matter.

Central Defenders

Fabricio Coloccini's decision to stay makes strengthening this position less urgent. Coloccini is joined by Steven Taylor, Mbiwa and Mike Williamson although the latter may also leave before the summer is out.

If Williamson goes, then another player should come in. In fact the club should be looking to offload big Mike and bring in a younger, better player.

Central Midfield

Probably the strongest area of the squad, ironic given that Pardew's preferred style of football tends to bypass the midfield completely.

Yohan Cabaye, Cheick Tiote, Moussa Sissoko, Anita and Gael Bigirimana make up a decent selection of players, although Cabaye will be gone if a large enough offer comes in. Whether Newcastle would replace Cabaye if he leaves is open to debate -- Sissoko ahead of Tiote could be the starting two if he goes.

Wide Men

Half the squad seem to have played out wide at one time or another last season and few made any impact. Hatem Ben Arfa, Jonas Gutierrez, Sylvain Marveaux, Shane Ferguson, Gabriel Obertan, Sammy Ameobi and Yoan Gouffran played as wingers or as wide men in a front three as did, bizarrely, Papiss Cisse and Sissoko.

Marveaux has been linked with a move away as have Obertan and Ferguson. I'd be disappointed to see Marveaux go -- he is one of the few players at Newcastle capable of opening up a defence.

I'd like to see the club recruit an exciting, capable winger. They probably won't though, as Pardew quite obviously rates Gutierrez while Ben Arfa is one of the club's key men. I'd also love to see Santon given the chance to start in a more advanced role -- he's definitely better on the front foot than going backwards.

Forwards

One or two strikers must be the priority. Cisse struggled last season, although I believe we will see a lot more from him next term. He just needs some help as he is ill-suited to the role of target man at the end of the many long balls launched up towards him.

Adam Campbell would benefit from a loan spell in the Championship but Pardew has already said he has a part to play for Newcastle.

That leaves Shola Ameobi. Could this be the year that Newcastle finally move Shola on? Let's hope so.

So with all that in mind, I'd love to hear which players you would all like to sign and why.

Twitter: @MarcSDuffy

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