Newcastle United’s first match without midfield magician Yohan Cabaye wasn’t anywhere near the tremendous letdown some expected, especially considering how poorly the Magpies reacted to the news that he might head to Arsenal back in August. Newcastle was obliterated 4-0 by Manchester City on the season’s opening weekend amid worries that Cabaye would skip the Northeast.
The Magpies outchanced, outran and outplayed former manager Chris Hughton’s Norwich City side at Carrow Road but couldn’t finish in a 0-0 draw that saw them pick up point No. 37 on the year. And it wasn’t the sort of no-finish affair that would leave supporters questioning if the post-Cabaye era was going to resemble some bleak “Waterworld” landscape.
Hatem Ben Arfa created splendidly before the consequences of his apparent love for sandwiches arrived late in the game, while the goalposts did all they could to make sure Loic Remy and the Magpies were snakebit before Remy was sent off for a perceived headbutt on Bradley Johnson at the end of an altercation that saw both players see red and put Newcastle in a poor position ahead of Saturday’s home derby date with Sunderland.
So if Ben Arfa can get in better match shape, it stands to reason the Magpies will be just fine, with plenty of attacking options in Moussa Sissoko, Yoan Gouffran and Sammy Ameobi (the latter a bit of a head-scratching revelation on Tuesday. Why hadn’t he been featuring at all for Alan Pardew?).
But what will they do to lift their European dreams out of long shot territory? Surely they’d need more than grabbing out-of-form Dutch striker Luuk de Jong from the Bundesliga and hoping for the best, even if he was the next big Newcastle target just a summer ago.
Enter a bid from 23-year-old Lyon midfielder Clement Grenier, rumored for Arsenal but also a prospect for the Northeast club. Newcastle had flirted with signing Remy Cabella from Montpellier earlier in the window and the player wanted to come, but the higher-ups at his French club escalated their asking price to absurd heights for the in-demand youngster.
Lyon boss Remi Garde doesn’t want to lose his young playmaker, who has earned his first three senior caps for France this year and added six goals and four assists in Ligue 1 and Europe this year. In the past two seasons, Grenier’s started 47 matches, scored 13 goals and added 12 assists. The bidding price for the midfielder is said to be between 10-12 million pounds.
It’s always an unknown whether a player’s game with translate, especially how long that will take, but Grenier does seem the sort to provide a lesser drop-off from Cabaye. Now will Mike Ashley, Joe Kinnear and Alan Pardew appear more attractive than Arsene Wenger? Ay, there’s the rub.