Last week, as Loïc Rémy fell into Harry Redknapp's lap and Newcastle was tenuously linked to any Ligue 1 player with a pulse, the club appeared to hit the limits of its transfer strategy. Then the floodgates opened. Classy central defender Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa has already posed with his black-and-white shirt, with versatile forward Yoan Gouffran and promising left back Massadio Haïdara due to get the same treatment today.
That gives Alan Pardew the ability to suit up as many as nine French-speaking players at a time, while still leaving more Francophone options on the bench. As we prepare to raise the Tricolor above St. James' Park (conveniently matching the ubiquitous Sports Direct ads!), some of the club's critics are concerned about the effect on the dressing room. Can Newcastle United be "too French," and should Graham Carr and his small army of scouts look for another league to mine?
Given the tight budget and need for a handful of new players, buying from England is a pipe dream. Even relatively young and inexperienced players from the Championship cost a fortune - Jay Rodriguez went for £7 million to sit on Southampton's bench, and it's not even worth asking Crystal Palace for a quote on Wilfried Zaha. When Newcastle was at its most attractive last summer, Luuk de Jong showed zero interest in coming over from Holland, as did Gregory van der Wiel. The club's buys from Spain have a scattershot history, and good players coming out of Portugal seem to have two or three extra zeroes tacked onto their price tags.
And now, with the relegation battle in full force, what hungry player in his right mind would want to come to Newcastle? A club like QPR offers plenty more cash, and virtually anyone else in the Premier League promises more stability. It's actually quite lucky that Newcastle is held in such high esteem in France, with the likes of Yohan Cabaye and Hatem Ben Arfa continually praising their surroundings. That link is the only thing bringing players like Yanga-Mbiwa through the door right now.
Sure, you will get stories like the dressing room rift between French-speaking and Argentine players. But any struggling club will have its disputes. There wasn't any language barrier involved when Andy Carroll broke Steven Taylor's jaw, or when Kieron Dyer and Lee Bowyer decided a match was the perfect time to come to blows.
Amid the challenges of the transfer market, recruiting for chemistry is just about impossible. Finding decent professionals and hoping they mesh is about the best a club can do. And dubious Daily Star articles aside, Newcastle's French contingent appears to be a collection of model citizens. A calming influence from the playing staff is a welcome contrast to the slew of outcasts who have donned the stripes over the years.
Finally, there's the caricatured perspective of British "grit" versus French, well..."cheese-eating surrender monkeys." From Newcastle's point of view, that myth should now be thoroughly busted. Though the result on Saturday was disappointing, no one fought harder than Cabaye, who popped up just about everywhere in his first start since November. If the incoming players demonstrate the same strength and skill that he showed against Reading, Premier League survival would be a fait accompli.