Newcastle United transfer news: Toon stalwart unhappy at club, Major Benitez claim made
One of the biggest questions surrounding Newcastle United right now is who should be Steve Bruce’s number one?
Martin Dubravka looked to have the spot nailed down before picking up a heel injury that sidelined him for much of the early part of this season, and in his absence, Karl Darlow has really stepped up to the plate.
The 30-year-old has spent much of his Toon career playing second fiddle to those ahead of him in the pecking order, but he has unarguably been one of the Magpies’ standout talents this term, and his performances between the sticks have been rewarded with his manager’s continued faith, even after Dubravka made his return from the treatment room.
But according to Bruce, the Slovakian is less than happy with his current situation in the north east.
Speaking to BBC Newcastle, he said: “He [Dubravka] has been very, very professional about it and understands.
“That doesn’t mean to say he’s happy, which I wouldn’t expect him to be.
“I have got a situation, we’ve got another very good young goalkeeper [Freddie Woodman] down at Swansea, who is doing very well too.
“So, in that area of the pitch, we are extremely good.
"You know, at the minute I have stayed with Karl [Darlow] because I think he deserves to be playing.
“Karl has got the nod at the moment but as we have seen in football, things can change very quickly.”
There’s probably an argument to be made for Dubravka being justified in his grievances too.
The 32-year-old has conceded an average of 0.2 fewer goals per game over the course of his time on Tyneside than Darlow, and he hadn’t put a foot wrong prior to picking up his injury.
That being said, Darlow has conceded 41 goals this season – 5.76 fewer than his total xCG (expected goals conceded) for the campaign.
In essence, that means that he is consistently saving shots that he has no right to, and his interventions have made him the fifth-highest rated player in Bruce’s squad this season, as per Whoscored.
Dropping him would be harsh to say the least, and it’s fair to say that the boss is facing a real conundrum between the sticks.
If reports elsewhere are to be believed, however, perhaps it wouldn’t be a quandary that Bruce would find himself in for too long.
According to Duncan Castles of The Times, Mike Ashley has made a sensational approach to bring Rafa Benitez back to the club.
With the Toon Army in a precarious position, it is claimed that the Magpies owner has asked the popular Spaniard to return to the north east in an effort to steer his side away from danger.
From a purely footballing perspective, it's not hard to see why Ashley would want Benitez back either.
The 60-year-old is still a darling of the fanbase, and his record on Tyneside was impressive enough. His average of 1.48 points per game, for instance, is 0.28 higher than Bruce's, as per Transfermarkt.
Still, this seems like a highly dubious claim, and it’s hard to imagine either Ashley or Benitez being particularly thrilled at the prospect of rekindling their working relationship any time soon.
We’ve gathered the rest of today’s Premier League speculation below: