The appointment of Joe Kinnear as Newcastle's director of football last summer surprised just about everyone assoicated with the game. The former defender had been out of work since 2009 and his return to the club came as a huge shock.
Tasked with bringing in new faces, Kinnear oversaw just one signing during the summer transfer window, acquiring striker Loïc Rémy on loan from QPR. The Frenchman moved to Loftus Road last January and finished their top goalscorer with 6 goals despite his short time in the capital before moving to Newcastle.
Kinnear was rightly criticised for signing only Rémy, while not bringing him in permanently, in hindsight, was not the wisest decision made by the 67-year-old. Only Mathieu Debuchy (7.44) has a better WhoScored rating than Rémy (7.14) of every player still at the club this season and his success in front of goal has attracted a number of potential suitors, most notably Arsenal, with the striker in attendance during Sunday's 1-0 win over West Brom.
The France international has netted the most times (14) for Alan Pardew's side this term, scoring a third of their 42 league goals. To put the importance of those goals into perspective, consider that Yohan Cabaye is Newcastle's next highest goalscorer (7) despite moving to PSG in January.
With Papiss Demba Cissé and Shola Ameobi misfiring and January arrival Luuk de Jong failing to set the Premier League alight, the importance of Rémy is magnified significantly. The 27-year-old has made just 24 starts in England's top tier this term, yet in the 13 games he hasn't featured from the off, Newcastle have scored just 3 goals: a rate of just 0.23 goals per game.
In his 24 starts, the Magpies have averaged 1.63 goals league match and resultantly have a much higher win percentage (54.2%) than when he doesn't start (15.4%). The team performs better when Rémy plays and it was no coincidence that their 6-game losing streak came to an end when they faced Cardiff at the weekend, a match the Frenchman started, scored and provided an assist in.
Creatively, the striker has played a pivotal role, with only compatriot Moussa Sissoko (6) registering more league assists than Rémy (3) for Newcastle this term. Often operating as the lead frontman, his ability to create for teammates has also been crucial, with only Sissoko (2.2) and Sylvain Marveaux (1.6) averaging more key passes per game than Rémy (1.2) of every player currently at the club.
Boasting the ability to play anywhere across the attack only adds to his value and has seen Pardew deploy him on the wing as well as up front this season, allowing Rémy to utilise his statistically calculated style of play of 'likes to cut inside'. This makes it harder for him to be tracked by opposition defenders, with the Frenchman pulling to the left to find space to receive the ball. Comparatively, Cissé, Ameobi and De Jong remain more central and the one dimensional approach of the trio makes it easier for their threat to be nullified.
This makes Rémy a decent outlet for a Newcastle team that averages 49.8% posession in Englaand's top tier. The lowly return could perhaps be attributed to the departure of Cabaye, with the team adopting a more counter-attacking approach as a result of his departure. Only Liverpool (27), Manchester City (20) and Everton (18) have had more shots on the counter than Newcastle (17) this season, while only Luis Suárez (9) has had more such efforts than Rémy (6) of every player.
Furthermore, Rémy has scored 2 of Newcastle's 3 counter attacking goals this season, highlighting his importance to Pardew's gameplan. His insistence on pulling out wide and netting from quick breaks would appeal to Arsenal as they aim to bolster their striking ranks this summer. His approach bears a resemblance to that of former Gunners hero Thierry Henry, with the now New York Red Bulls frontman drifting to the left before racing away to place efforts in the far corner during his peak years in north London.
While Rémy doesn't perform to the same standards as Henry in his pomp, similarities are there. Should he indeed move to Arsenal, as has been mooted, this would not only allow Arsène Wenger to call upon another striker to ease the goalscoring burden on Olivier Giroud, but his ability to bring others into play will benefit the attack-minded players available to the Gunners boss.
His displays for QPR and Newcastle have shown he is more than capable of performing in the Premier League and interest from those plying their trade in the Champions League is no shock. The Magpies will be ruing their luck that he was not fit for the entire campaign and it's highly likely that they will look to sign Rémy permanently once the transfer window reopens.
Yet with the Magpies' poor season and the impressive form of the frontman, he is expected to sign for a team challenging for domestic and European honours this summer, rather than extend his stay with Newcastle. Without him, their gameplan is not as effective and it's questionable whether they would be able to attract a player of his quality in the foreseeable future.
With that, there is little doubt that the board must strive to reinvest the reported £19m received from Cabaye's sale in January to sign Rémy permanently.
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All statistics courtesy of http://www.whoscored.com