Most Newcastle United fans could be forgiven for not quite believing their Tuesday night. Not only was their club about to break its infamous 14-year old transfer record, with the imminent signing of Miguel Almiron; they pulled off one of the results of the season by defeating Manchester City 2-1 at St James’s Park.
Newcastle truly deserved their massive win over the Champions and they will hope that they can now engineer a huge turnaround in form. With Rafa Benitez’s main transfer target flying in for a medical, hope will abundant on Tyneside that their club can build on this pivotal moment.
It is a night that will be universally roared on by the long suffering Geordie Faithful. It’s also a massive result that will have reverberations at both ends of the table. Newcastle have raced up to 14th but more significantly, they are now five clear of Cardiff City who sit in 18th place after 24 games.
However, there is rather a big but coming here. Newcastle are still bereft of the required quality to keep them out of trouble in the long-term. One win and a solitary signing is not about to transform the club’s fortunes overnight and does not really give us much to go off in terms of Benitez’s long-term future either. With the Magpies still in a relegation battle, they will need a lot more than just one win and a young Paraguayan playmaker to get them out of trouble.
To avoid totally raining on the Geordie’s parade, their new signing has all the hallmarks of a quality player who could make a massive impact at St James’s Park for the remainder of the season.
Blessed with real pace and excellent vision on the ball, Miguel Almiron is a real menace to opposition back lines. He won praise in South American domestic football for his ability to unleash chaos on the counter, with his willingness to dribble and create space for his teammates. With Benitez famous for his counter-attacking set up, it could be one hell of a shrewd purchase.
Arsenal were credited with interested in the Paraguay international’s services back in 2016 and his goal haul of 13 for Atlanta United in the MLS last season is nothing to be sniffed at. With the shortage of real creativity at Newcastle, hamstringing their form this season, Almiron could really galvanise the club’s stodgy style. With just 21 goals scored to date, the Newcastle fans will be hoping their incoming record signing can really help them pull away from danger.
Sadly, with every bit of news related to Newcastle United, there is more than just a hint of political intrigue and soap opera dramatics. Almiron’s signing is no different.
With the atmosphere in the stadium reaching a near unsustainable level of toxicity towards the owner, it has perhaps become impossible for Mike Ashley not to invest in his club’s playing staff. As the January transfer window ebbed away, rumours about Benitez’s future continued to swirl.
Ashley, who has been trying to find a buyer since October 2017, will know that his chances of making a healthy return will be severely dented if his strange policy of pulling the purse strings so tight they nearly snap, continues to undermine the club’s form. Worse still, if Benitez walks away in the summer after another disappointing season, the big investors may well be scared off for good.
For the more cynical of Ashley haters, Almiron’s signing could be viewed as a mere, grudging, solitary concession made by a man more interested in purchasing high street fashion outlets, than truly improving the football club he’s owned for over a decade.
If results are to turn following the win over Manchester City, it would not be too dramatic to say that Ashley may well have to find another couple of transfer aces up his sleeve before Thursday night.
Despite the owner’s baseball cap selling pal in the media believing otherwise, the chronic lack of funding has left Benitez working with a group of players that are simply nowhere near the required standard to be considered comfortable in the top flight.
Almiron is a step in the right direction in terms of quality, but a hefty overhaul in players is sorely needed at Newcastle. The former Real Madrid boss is still pretty much working with the nucleolus of the squad that got out of the Championship in 2017. With other rival clubs spending so freely, it really must be a frustrating existence for those truly connected and vested in the famous old football club.
This last gasp signing of a solitary player of adequate quality, may simply be too little too late convince Benitez it’s a job worth staying on for. Nights like this will help for sure, but the club’s immediate future is far from safety as it currently stands.