Newcastle United's transfer window strategy shift – and how summer deals fit into Steve Bruce's squad dynamic & NOT Mike Ashleynomics
And it’s caught everyone by surprise after a summer of uncertainty on Tyneside.
Most expected the Sports Direct tycoon to revert to type and penny pinch in the summer transfer market, leaving Newcastle United woefully short, not for the first time in his 13 years at the helm.
But the signing of Callum Wilson, and the soon to be arrival of Ryan Fraser and Jamal Lewis, following on from Jeff Hendrick before him, and Mark Gillespie nominally before that again, has proven the landscape lies a little different at St James’s Park this summer compared to others – and it’s nothing to do with a takeover!
Here our writer Liam Kennedy assesses the summer United have had so far in the window – and how this shift in policy has had a transformative impact on Steve Bruce’s Newcastle squad heading into the 2020/21 Premier League season.
In Ashley’s time at Newcastle United the club have had an allergy of going out to sign England internationals, or players on the fringes. Only Jonjo Shelvey and Andros Townsend come to mind – and please don’t mention Jack Colback.
They have only once paid more than the £20m they’ve shelled out to Bournemouth for Wilson, which also makes this unique, but they’ve never ever paid anywhere close to that figure for a player over the age of 28 – and that’s the most baffling thing about this deal, when applied to ‘Ashleynomics’.
Wilson does not fit the young players with sell on value approach seen for much of Ashley’s tenure, broken for just one summer in 2016 under Rafa Benitez.
He is not young, is actually in his prime, is a proven Premier League player with goals against his name and represents a bit of a low risk signing, as long as his injury days are behind him. Wilson actually played 40 games last season for those out there with concerns.
Remember Ashley refused to sanction a £16m permanent move for Salomon Rondon under Benitez and ended up brokering a loan deal, which has lumbered United with Dwight Gayle for longer than they’d imagined due to the wage hike he enjoyed for making the switch to West Brom. Wilson is the same age Rondon was back then.
The striker is exactly what the Magpies are missing – a proper centre forward. He will add pace, some hold up play and a knack for scoring all kind of goals to a front pack who managed just six goals between them in the league last season.
Now this does fit into the Ashley deal modus operandi.
At 22 Lewis ticks the young player with sell-on value box, but he’s no cheap option off the continent, as would have been expected to fill the left-back slot.
At around £14m Lewis doesn’t come cheap but there is plenty room to grow in that fee, especially for a player who almost made the move to Liverpool earlier in the summer.
Should the Northern Ireland international continue on his current trajectory it is fair to say he could well be worth double the fee United paid Norwich to sign him in just a year or two, of course that must be tempered with the fact he is a player still with a lot of learning to do, despite a full season in the top flight for the Canaries. The ‘Jacob Murphy factor’ though also urges caution.
A left-back who can bomb on, who is athletic and pacey but a little suspect in the air. He is not perfect, – and probably best suited in a 3-5-2-style formation – but used right he can be a real asset for United moving forward. A definite improvement on Paul Dummett in an attacking sense, at least.
This deal in many ways is a 50/50 when it comes to applying it to ‘Ashleynomics’.
The Scotland international is a free agent – a big tick. Isn’t too old – maybe a half tick. But does command a massive wage – a definite cross.
When looking at the type of players United have signed in the past Fraser could probably fit into any era, but there are enough question marks also to suggest the plug would be pulled as well.
At 26, he’s not as young as Ashley’s transfer men like to target, but he's got enough time and space to grow his worth and ability. It is not out the question that after two very good years on Tyneside, Fraser would get the move he so craves to a top six club and in the process make Ashley – or hopefully a new owner – a significant profit.
A player whose pace, direct running and ability to find players in dangerous positions could well prove a gem of a signing for Bruce and Ashley this summer – and a player who should complement what United already have in the forward positions, making them a real force on the counter attack against anyone.
This is another one that really doesn’t seem to make sense as part of the Mike Ashley, Newcastle United model.
The ROI international at 28 is an experienced Premier League performer, with a point to prove on Tyneside, but the fact he’s been given a four-year deal, taking him to 32, flies in the face of deals done under Ashley in the recent past.
You only have to look back to Mo Diame, his want for a two-year deal and offer of one after turning 30 for an example of why this deal seems so bizarre for Ashley’s United.
Bit of a run of the mill deal this one, with little need for any kind of analysis. A number three goalkeeper who plugs the gap left behind by Rob Elliot – and a lot cheaper, too.
Others – Rob Holding and another striker?
When all is said and done with the players currently in talks, it's expected United will turn their attentions to another striker – but they will have to start trimming the fat.
The likes of Henri Saivet, Achraf Lazaar and Rolando Aarons have no future at United, but we’ve known that for a long time.
Yoshinori Muto is another who can leave, so too Christian Atsu. Then there’s the out of contract players next summer – the likes of Isaac Hayden, Fabian Schar, Dwight Gayle, DeAndre Yedlin and others. To be honest, it’s hard to see United knocking back any bids for those players this summer, especially when they are going to lose them for nothing next year.
Ciaran Clark and Federico Fernandez are another two who are likely to play a key role, but are in the final year of their deal.
Florian Lejeune's future has to be in serious doubt, especially with the club having agreed a loan for Arsenal’s Rob Holding – a deal which is only likely to be completed towards the end of the window.