Typically, summers at Newcastle United are rarely dull, and this one has proved to be no different. With a takeover saga, Rafa Benitez resigning, fan revolutions and now the pending appointment of Steve Bruce – the last six weeks have been anarchy on Tyneside.
State of Play
Despite all of that, the one thing that seems to have been ignored is United’s sheer lack of movement in the transfer market. So far, all we’ve really seen is the club fail with a derogatory bid for last season’s Magpie of the year, Salomon Rondon, to make his loan permanent. That’s pretty much your lot for incomings.
In terms of outgoings, Ayoze Perez has departed to join Leicester City for £30m and Joselu left today to join Spanish side Alaves. Isaac Hayden has made his desire to leave well known, Karl Darlow could be on his way out, Martin Dubravka is being linked with a move and perhaps worst of all, Sean Longstaff could be off to Manchester United. What all this means is that when/if Steve Bruce joins up with the Magpies, he’ll inherit a Championship level team who have lost their two top scorers from last season and have just one recognised striker on the books.
So, the first order of business for Bruce will be transfers – if the Magpies don’t start spending some serious money, relegation will be all but nailed on! The current team would struggle to get promoted out of the Championship, never mind secure survival in the Premier League.
First thing’s first, a striker. In losing Rondon (end of loan) and Perez (Sold to Leicester), Newcastle lost the scorers of 23 of their 42 Premier League goals last season – that’s a staggering 54% of their goals. It goes without saying, but those goals MUST be replaced or Newcastle will be down before Christmas.
It looks as though Rondon will be reunited with Rafa Benitez this window as he is set to join Chine Super League club Dalian Yifang – therefore, any hope of a return there seems dead in the water. If reports today are to be believed, NUFC have apparently agreed a deal in the region of £36million for the Brazilian striker Joelinton from Hoffenheim. Having been touted as “the next Roberto Firmino” due to the similarity of his career trajectory, Joelinton is a rangy, right-footed forward who is good in the air, powerful on the ball and quick on his feet – in all, the perfect Rondon replacement.
As you might expect, given the history around transfer dealings in the north-east, NUFC fans are very sceptical that a deal is actually “in place,” as the papers would have them believe. I would be inclined to agree that the Geordie nation should take this story with a fistful of salt, but wouldn’t it be great if it happened?
Many would also say a replacement for Perez is necessary, but I think the club believe they’ve already signed that player in Miguel Almiron. In my humble opinion, the club knew fine well they’d be selling Perez this summer and therefore signed the Paraguayan in January as a Perez replacement rather than a squad addition. This would also explain why the club used a bank loan to fund the Almiron transfer – because they knew they’d be making that money back when the Spaniard left in the summer.
Elsewhere in the squad, a strong defensive midfielder, a specialised left-back, and perhaps another winger are all areas that need strengthened. With repeated poor performances from Deandre Yedlin last season, the right back position could also do with some investment. Personally, I’d say the one area of the team that doesn’t require significant investment is the centre-half position. With Fabian Schar, Jamaal Lascelles, Florian Lejeune, Ciaran Clark, Federico Fernandez and Paul Dummett (Yes, he’s a LB but can play CB), they look quite strong in that area.
What next for the fans?
Right now, it seems almost certain Steve Bruce will be the next manager of Newcastle United. It’s nobody’s first choice, but at the end of the day, he’s the one who will be in charge of the club this season. There’s no point in sending abuse his way before he’s even taken charge of his first game, the fans will have to try and get behind him.
As a Newcastle fan myself, I, of all people, know how hard this will be given my personal feelings towards the man. He’s not the best choice to keep NUFC in the Premier League, he’s not the man to replace a world class manager in Rafa, but like him or loathe him, he’s the one we’ve been given. Booing him and shouting abuse at him before he’s even had a chance to do anything with the squad won’t help anything.
If you need somewhere to aim your abuse and your anger, look no further than the owner of the club. It’s not Bruce’s fault he’s been tapped up to manage Newcastle – as a Geordie himself (allegedly), it’s always going to be tough to turn that down. At the end of the day, he’s stepping back into Premier League management – he was never going to say no.
Mike Ashley, on the other hand, knew fine well how this appointment would go down on Tyneside. He knows fine well that Bruce is hated in Newcastle and he knows fine well how much this was rubbing salt into the already gaping Rafa Benitez shaped wounds. That’s where you need to aim your abuse!
If you plan on attending matches this season, then get behind the team. They don’t deserve to catch any of the backlash for the actions of those sat in the directors box. They deserve the “loyalest football supporters the world has ever seen” to roar them on to victory as they settle in for another long, relegation battling season.