Rebuild, rehash or reinvigorate? The summer transfer decisions facing Newcastle United
There is a degree of certainty about Newcastle United this week, one which had previously avoided them for quite some time.
It’s not takeover certainty – that one rumbles (if that’s the right word) on in the background. Nor is it managerial, with Steve Bruce into the final year of his initial three-year deal. Plenty of player futures remain up in the air, and so too is the prospect of fans returning to their spiritual home, even if that’s always been a case of when, not if.
The level of certainty, for now, comes in the shape of which division Newcastle United are likely to be plying their trade in next season. Nothing is absolutely assured, of course, but a run of one loss in eight since February 21 and eight points in the four games since the Brighton capitulation has seen United stretch the gap to the bottom three back up to nine points.
That Premier League relegation safety buffer has this week seen heads turn to the summer at St James’ Park – and the areas head coach Bruce, with Graeme Jones, want to improve, reshape or rejuvenate.
REBUILD: Central midfield
This has been a problem area for Newcastle United since promotion. And one of the most telling signs of that is the fact the two players who occupied the central midfield roles when United were promoted are still as close to first choice to this day – Isaac Hayden and Jonjo Shelvey.
Jeff Hendrick has added little to nothing while Sean Longstaff is steady and improving, although his brother Matty Longstaff is likely to leave the club on loan this summer. This is something that should have happened LAST window, or the one before.
United need legs, they need energy, goals and creativity. If they can find one or more players who can tick any of those boxes it will be an upgrade. In Joe Willock they have a player they need to try and hold on to, however, Arsenal might want to take a second look at the 21-year-old. Also, Willock price tag may prove too rich, even at £20m, for Newcastle this summer.
REHASH: Central defence
Question marks over three key defenders could see a rebuild needed at United, but in an ideal world some clever negotiations could see the status quo remain.
Doubts currently hang over the heads of Fabian Schar, Federico Fernandez and Florian Lejeune.
The former two are out of contract this summer, while loan man Lejeune is out of favour with Bruce, having failed to impress since the head coach arrived on Tyneside.
It is likely Lejeune will be shown the door, especially with just a year left on his current deal, while a clause in Schar’s contract will be activated to see his deal extended to next summer. He may still leave, however. Schar was close to departing United in January, with a move to Serie A eyed, only to see the Magpies’ deal to bring in now Liverpool defender Ozan Kabak fall apart.
Fernandez, having activated a clause last summer, is not thought to have another and will be free to depart in June. United are keen to tie him down, however, and a deal could be reached.
A shuffling around of deals and negotiations should see little change, but one new face may be explored, particularly with Frenchman Lejeune unlikely to win over Bruce.
REINVIGORATE: Striker department
This department needs a shot in the arm, not total surgery.
Callum Wilson is the main man and Joelinton has shown he can add some value to the side, however huge question marks remain about Dwight Gayle and Andy Carroll.
Carroll, as a Premier League performer, has been barely used this season – and being brutally honest, United could have done without him this campaign. That slot in the 25-man squad could have been better served taken up by another defender, or a midfielder at times, so little has been his involvement.
Wilson needs some goalscoring competition – and it would be no surprise to see that targeted in the summer.
Gayle has signed a new deal at United, but could even be sacrificed, if better can be found.
Martin Dubravka is No1. Anyone who thinks otherwise, hasn’t been paying attention. And that’s no slight on Karl Darlow.
Darlow may be allowed to leave if Freddie Woodman is brought into the mix. United do face a huge decision on Woodman, mind. At 24, and having done two full seasons at the top end of the Championship, Woodman is more than ready for the top flight. Could he be No2? Or is another loan or sale on the agenda?
It seems Woodman and Darlow’s futures are intrinsically linked. If one goes, the other is likely to stay.
It’s fair to say United are blessed in this particular department.
When it comes to wing-backs, United are well-stocked – full-backs is a different kettle of fish.
Jamal Lewis on one side and Javier Manquillo on the other, but beyond that the quality is light, although Paul Dummett has proven to be a more than capable left-back in the top flight.
As a left-back option, arguably the less pressing of the two, Jetro Willems is likely to be a player who comes under consideration.
The Netherlands international was a player who was considered in January but the finances of the deal were not right. That may shift with him out of contract this summer.
Over on the right, an Emil Krafth upgrade is desperately needed.