Newcastle captain Kevin Nolan's sale to West Ham United has raised some eyebrows amongst fans and players, with many wondering just why Newcastle would sell their team's leader - and statistically, one of their best players. West Ham, on the other hand, are probably giddy at acquiring a key piece to the promotion puzzle as they look to work their way back up to the top flight. But should they be?
Robert Bishop of SB Nation's Newcastle blog Coming Home Newcastle, thinks that Nolan will be missed for his leadership and influence on his fellow players rather than any special on-field ability. Looking past the raw statistics, Robert sees an aging midfielder whose sale may have come at the right time - although he admits that losing him might have a significant impact on the rest of the squad:
[L]et's be real: Fabio Capello isn't exactly knocking down Nolan's door. He had a good season in the black and white stripes - very good, in fact - but ask Newcastle supporters to rank the current set of midfielders, and there's no way he's higher than #3 on the list of anybody who understands that you must look further than goals scored when evaluating players. (I'd put him at #4 personally, and that's just out of the healthy ones.)
Yes, Nolan will be missed, but not because he's irreplaceable as a player. The impact this move is likely to have in the minds of Jose Enrique Sanchez, Jonás Gutiérrez, and Joey Barton cannot be understated. It doesn't matter how you or I rate a player; if he's looked up to as a leader by the other players, his departure will set off alarm bells in the locker room.
It'll be interesting to see how Newcastle manage to adapt next season. They're supposed to be in the hunt for a striker, and with Nolan and Andy Carroll both missing from the roster that started the 2010/11 season they'll find it almost impossible to score goals without one. As for Nolan's leadership, this may turn out to be a prelude to a massive retooling of the squad. Or it may just be Mike Ashley throwing his weight around. Time will tell.