Newcastle United transfer window Q&A: The big questions answered as Steve Bruce looks for loan deals
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The club hasn’t often spent money in the New Year – and more recently it has turned to the loan market.
And the coronavirus pandemic has put an extra brake on spending at St James’s Park, so those expecting high-profile arrivals are likely to be disappointed.
The question is seemingly whether there will be any arrivals at all in this month’s window, and Steve Bruce, for his part, has attempted to manage expectations on Tyneside in recent press conferences.
“It's notoriously difficult, and especially with Covid and all that goes with it, the loss of income,” said United’s head coach. “There are one or two things. We’re looking at the loan market, in particular, and there are one or two things bubbling there.”
“But, if there's anybody actively that can help us, (we will act). Last year, we brought in three loan players, if you remember, who helped us towards the end of the season in particular, but it's never easy getting a loan player.
"The reason why you're getting him on loan usually is they're not playing or they've had a fall out, or they're recovering from injury or whatever, so we'll see what we can do and see if we can improve anything on the squad.”
Here, we attempt to answer some of the questions that are being asked about the club’s January transfer business.
Does the club have any money to spend?
Yes and no. Bruce has repeatedly spoken about the financial impact of the pandemic on the club, which remains under Mike Ashley’s ownership. St James’s Park has been all but empty and silent for almost 11 months – and the club has incurred increased costs. Broadcasting revenues have also been hit, even though the Premier League was able to restart successfully behind closed doors after the first national lockdown.
Newcastle aren’t alone in taking a cautious approach to the window – and many other clubs are also looking for loans. There’s a small amount of money available for the right loan deal – if it can be found.
Where does Steve Bruce want to strengthen?
Much of the focus, up to now, has been on potential defensive recruits. The club has been linked with Manchester United left-back Brandon Williams, while former loanee Jetro Willems, we know, is keen to return to Newcastle. The club’s failed move to Arsenal Rob Holding last summer also suggested that central defence was an area of concern at the start of the campaign, though the form of Federico Fernandez and Ciaran Clark this season may have alleviated that.
Supporters are more concerned with midfield after watching the club’s first 16 Premier League games. The team has lacked a creative spark in the centre in recent weeks. Jonjo Shelvey has been particularly poor, and this area would seem a greater priority.
What’s happening with Jetro Willems?
Willems spent the first half of last season on loan at Newcastle – his time on Tyneside was cut short by a serious knee injury – and the defender is keen to return to the club. Willems has spoken of having unfinished business at St James’s Park – and he would be a popular acquisition. Willems, in the final year of his contract at Eintracht Frankfurt, is available this month, but any deal would have to be right for him – and Newcastle.
The 26-year-old is fit after recovering from knee surgery, but he’s not played a competitive game so far this season. Bruce has previously looked for players able to make an immediate impact, though midfielder Nabil Bentaleb was signed last January despite having not played a game for Schalke 04 for eight months. Willems may be a more attractive summer acquisition.
Will there be any outgoings?
In an ideal world, yes. Christian Atsu, Rolando Aarons, Achraf Lazaar and Henri Saivet are all in the last years of their United contracts, and are not in Bruce’s plans. That said, the club has tried and failed to move them on in previous windows. Aarons is likely to join Huddersfield Town, having seen a proposed move last summer break down over late paperwork, but the other three could see out their contracts at the club and leave on free transfer in the summer.
DeAndre Yedlin, also in the final year of his contract, is a more saleable asset, but the 27-year-old right-back has been in team in recent weeks. Unlike Atsu, Aarons, Lazaar and Saivet, Yedlin was included in Bruce’s 25-man Premier League, and if he was moved on, there would be space for a loan signing.
Will Dwight Gayle be sold this month?
Fulham – who failed with a £15million bid for Dwight Gayle in the summer of 2017 – have been linked with a move for the striker this month. However, Gayle’s only an injury away from starting for Bruce, who revealed after joining Newcastle that he had previously tried to sign him three times.
Gayle, of course, is in the final year of his contract, and normally a club would look to sell such a player – or sign him on a new deal. Gayle may choose to run his deal down. What is clear is Bruce’s unwillingness to lose a player of Gayle’s calibre given that the 30-year-old – who has been coming off the bench regularly – could well be needed over the coming weeks and months.