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My frustration is that this perhaps the 3rd time under Ashley that we have been close to getting it right (that's term is interpretive, I realise) but failed to nail it at the end of the day.
The spirit in the squad appears to have survived the loss of Andy Carroll, Kevin Nolan, Joey Barton and Jose Enrique. This was my major concern, and to be honest speaks volumes for the way Alan Pardew is doing the job. In the light of this, the replacement of Nolan by Cabaye is now looking like a sensible move for the long term.
Losing Jose Enrique and Joey Barton were perhaps inevitable, although I'm not convinced. I still believe both players could have been retained under diffferent circumstances. Hopefully, Santon will prove an adequate replacement for Jose, and a combination of Hatem Ben Arfa, Gabriel Obertan or Sylvain Marveaux for Barton.
I actually believe we should have replaced Carroll with another highly promising young striker, and had that opportunity with either Connor Whickham or Shane Long. Hopefully, Sameobi will prove to be a better prospect than either of them.
So, where does all that leave us? Yet again, the squad looks very fragile. If we manage to avoid injuries – a helluva big “if” for the Toon – we could still do ok. However, if we pick up a number of injuries I fear we'll struggle, possibly badly.
I guess the objective now is to maintain the early momentum until January when we will have another opportunity to boost the playing resources, although the January window usually provides a difficult market.
Given where we are today I'd settle for mid-table obscurity, and perhaps a decent Cup run.