The failure to land a striker on deadline day got all the press. But Newcastle United had to know it was taking a big gamble when it opted not to bring in additional center back cover last summer.
That decision looks downright silly today in the wake of injuries to Steven Taylor and Fabricio Coloccini during Newcastle's 3-0 defeat to Chelsea. Taylor (ruptured achilles) is done for the season, while the early speculation about Coloccini (thigh strain) is that he'll be missing for two weeks at the very minimum.
It's true that losing both starting center backs in the same game is fairly unlucky. And you could make the argument, as Alan Pardew has, that if referee Mike Dean had correctly sent off Chelsea's David Luiz in the fourth minute of Saturday's game, Coloccini and Taylor might not have been in position to suffer those injuries because, theoretically, Newcastle would have controlled the match.
None of that should excuse United's poor planning at center back, though. The club's hierarchy knew that Mike Williamson was the only out-and-out center back on the roster behind Taylor and Coloccini. That's the same Mike Williamson who suffered an ankle injury Aug. 25, six days before the close of the summer transfer window.
Williamson is still injured, which means Pardew currently has exactly zero legitimate center backs at his disposal heading into Newcastle's next game, at Norwich. James Perch, who filled in for Coloccini after he departed in the 27th minute against Chelsea, isn't a natural center back, but he'll have to do for now (at least until Coloccini and Williamson are both back healthy). Perch didn't do nearly as bad on Saturday as some fans would lead you to believe, but he doesn't possess the skill of Coloccini or the power of Taylor.
As for the other starting spot, there's no obvious choice. Danny Simpson has limited experience in the center. Davide Santon is being brought along slowly, and tossing him in at an unfamiliar position seems ill advised. Then there's Tamas Kadar, the 21-year-old Hungarian who not long ago was seen as a major prospect. But, with injuries playing a large role, he's fallen off to the point that he wasn't given a squad number this season. Sure, Newcastle can buy a couple defenders in January. But United still has five games to go before the winter window even opens, not to mention the time it would take for deals to be concluded and players to get acclimated.
So here Newcastle stands, about to play a winnable stretch of games (at Norwich, vs. Swansea, vs. West Brom, at Bolton) that could allow it to solidify itself as a European contender this season. And it looks like United will be relying on James Perch and Tamas Kadar to make up for a bad decision the club made back in August.