Steve McClaren has been told Newcastle United will buy the centre-forward they so desperately need to keep them in the Premier League during this transfer window.
It is 412 minutes since Newcastle scored a goal – a run that ended their FA Cup ambitions at the first hurdle, at Watford on Saturday, and has raised doubt as to whether they will share in the new television cash bonanza coming to Premier League clubs this summer.
To that end McClaren must await the arrival of the striker the club should have signed in the summer. Then, as the summer before, Newcastle’s recruitment policy looked to Europe for a cheaper answer to the problem. It has not worked – and the process has not been cheap.
Newcastle have now spent close to £50m in the summers of 2014 and 2015 to sign Rémy Cabella, Manu Rivière, Aleksandar Mitrovic and Florian Thauvin. The quartet – and Cabella returned to France in the close season – have scored five goals in 82 Premier League games between them. It goes some way to explaining why recent seasons have become such a struggle for the club’s supporters, who turned on the team – and Thauvin, in particular – following the 1-0 defeat at Vicarage Road.
The club’s malaise unquestionably precedes the arrival as manager of McClaren, who has the team playing a more cohesive style than last season, albeit without results, when, it has to be remembered, they staved off relegation on the final day.
McClaren, who pushed for the signing of Charlie Austin from Queen’s Park Rangers in the summer, is desperate for genuine firepower. Crucial chances have been missed in all four of the successive 1-0 defeats that have been so punishing to the mood on Tyneside.
The manager must wait to see who that player is, though the No 1 target for two years has been the Lyon striker Alexandre Lacazette. The French midfielder Henri Saivet, who completed his £4.5m move to Newcastle yesterday, will not feature against Manchester United at St James’ Park tonight. They are also pushing for the £10m signature of Jonjo Shelvey from Swansea City.
McClaren was asked if he was doing everything he could with the tools he was given when he took over. “Absolutely,” he said. “The players are. Everybody is. The most difficult thing is to not get over-frustrated. The players, you look at them, we went to Watford and we never gave them a kick in the first half. We were going for it. They are doing everything.
“I don’t know how the team was playing last season. I only know the progress from the beginning where we went a couple of games when we didn’t even have a shot. Then we started conceding a lot of goals. We are trying to get the balance. We always said it was a process. Sometimes it’s quick and, unfortunately, it’s not been.
“We’re still creating chances. We’re just not putting the ball in the back of the net. We’re not scoring enough goals. On the day we’ve got to step forward and take the opportunities and the chances.”
McClaren retains his position on the board at Newcastle, alongside his position as head coach, but significantly the four players who arrived in the summer were on their way before he had taken over.
“It’s good [being on the board] because I know what is going on,” he added. “Sometimes you don’t, so we are all involved in the process and we hope that will get the job done. There’s not much we can say and discuss about it, but you know and I know that we assess the first half [of the season] and what do we need in the second half?
“It’s not rocket science, is it? To win games of football, you have to score goals and at the present moment we have to score two to win games because we are conceding one every game, so that’s kind of where we are at."
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