The key areas Newcastle are looking to strengthen – and why

Joe Hart.
Joe Hart.

So, who’s next?

Rafa Benitez must build a Premier League team this summer.

And he still needs half a dozen or so players before the transfer window closes on August 31.

Many more players must leave the club before then, either on loan or on permanent deals.

Newcastle have already signed defender Florian Lejeune and winger Christian Atsu. Stefan O’Connor and Josef Yarney have also joined Peter Beardsley’s development squad.

But key positions still need to be filled. Put simply, the squad that took United back up isn’t good enough to keep the club in the top flight.

The Premier League has moved on since Newcastle were last in the division – and the club must quickly catch up.

We look at the each area and what Benitez needs – and what he doesn’t need.

GOALKEEPERS

Goalkeeping has long been one of the club’s strongest departments. Yet Benitez – who has already sent Matz Sels out on loan to Anderlecht – wants to sign another one.

This week, Tim Krul, Rob Elliot, Karl Darlow trained with goalkeeping coach Simon Smith along with Freddie Woodman, who will be loaned out this season.

Krul, Elliot and Darlow are all good enough to play in the Premier League.

But Benitez has his own ideas, and at least one of them will leave this summer if he does sign another keeper.

The club have turned down a £5million bid from Middlesbrough for Darlow, but the Championship club are expected to return with an improved offer.

United, we understand, are prepared to sell Darlow if the price is right.

Benitez was interested in Willy Cabellero, who left Manchester City and signed for Chelsea.

A loan enquiry has been made about Joe Hart, and Newcastle are also monitoring the contractual situation of Pepe Reina at Napoli.

DEFENDERS

There’s also work to be done in defence.

Firstly, there will be more departures. Grant Hanley is available for transfer and Chancel Mbemba, a fringe player last season, could leave along with Achraf Lazaar and Massadio Haidara.

They will all need to be replaced if they do go.

Benitez needs another experienced right-back to compete with DeAndre Yedlin following the departure of out-of-contract utlity player Vurnon Anita, who has joined Leeds.

Promising right-back Jamie Sterry, 21, is another option for Benitez, though he may benefit from another loan spell this season, having spent the first half of last term at Coventry City.

The Gazette understands that Benitez is also looking at left-backs.

If Hanley and Mbemba leave, then Benitez would be left with three senior central defenders – Lejeune, Jamaal Lascelles and Ciaran Clark – and Benitez will need four for the coming campaign.

Left-back Paul Dummett, however, can also play at centre-half.

MIDFIELDERS

Benitez is focused on signing another winger.

The club, which retains an interest in former Newcastle player Andros Townsend, have looked at a number of players, including Jacob Murphy, Sheyi Ojo. and Middlesbrough’s Adama Traore.

However, Benitez – who is working with new head of recruitment Steve Nickson –must also beef up his central midfield options.

Newcastle have explored a move for Liverpool’s Lucas Leiva, while a clutch of other defensive midfielders have been linked to the club.

United could also do with another creative midfielder to compete with Jonjo Shelvey, who was outstanding in the first half of the club’s Championship campaign.When Shelvey was suspended or out-of-form last season, Benitez had few viable options.

Previous target Tom Cairney has signed a new deal at Fulham.

STRIKERS

This will probably be the hardest part. Newcastle need at least one more striker. And they don’t come cheap.

Emmanuel Riviere is back at the club following a loan at Osasuna last season, but he’s not in Benitez’s plans. If a buyer can’t be found for Riviere, the club will endeavour to ship him out on loan again.

Daryl Murphy, brought in for his Championship experience, is available for transfer.

And Aleksandar Mitrovic – who scored four Championship goals last season – could also leave St James’s Park after two years on Tyneside.

Benitez – who signed Dwight Gayle last summer – needs a mix of pace and power up front.

Newcastle are looking closely at the market, and one player under consideration is Burnley’s Andre Gray, who has a year left on his Turf Moor contract and would cost upwards of £12million.

United, however, aren’t alone. Gray – who has been offered a new deal by Burnley – is interesting a number of clubs.

Benitez lost out on loan target Tammy Abraham, who join Swansea City from Chelsea last week.

Newcastle have been linked with Villarreal’s Cedric Bakambu, while Angers forward Nicolas Pepe is a target.

The club are also keen on Caen’s Yann Karamoh. Arsenal and Southampton are also keen on the 19-year-old, who will be a free agent next summer.