Steve Bruce eyes Newcastle United new recruits – FOUR key transfer priorities

Steve Bruce admits he will ‘knock down doors’ to strengthen his Newcastle United squad this summer amid a transfer landscape decimated by the recent coronavirus outbreak.

Bruce admits he will have to ‘box clever’ to get deals done this summer having seen his transfer budget slashed from a reported £70 million to around £30-35 million due to the impact of the virus on club revenues.

And while he has a few irons in the fire, United have been relatively quiet this summer on the transfer front – which is a concern for the Magpies’ fanbase, who see their side heading into the 2020/21 season with a weaker squad than they ended 2019/20.

But what players is Bruce targeting, and in what areas? Here Liam Kennedy takes a look at the four key battlegrounds for the United boss this transfer window.

Newcastle United's English head coach Steve Bruce (L) gestures from the sidelines during the English Premier League football match between Brighton and Hove Albion and Newcastle United at the American Express Community Stadium in Brighton, southern England on July 20, 2020.

Striker – easily United’s most concerning position

Joelinton, Andy Carroll, Dwight Gayle and Yoshinori Muto.

Not the kind of names who will strike fear into any Championship defence, never mind one in the top flight.

Between them last season the United foursome managed just NINE goals between them in all competitions. In the Premier League that stat drops to just SIX. And take Gayle out the equation that drops to just TWO in the top flight.

For any team that is nowhere near good enough. And consider, at the height of their talents, this a forward line who cost clubs more than more than £96 million combined.

Muto has been on the periphery since he signed – and if United can find someone to take him, will be gone in a heartbeat. Not one of Rafa Benitez’s best bits of business it has to be said.

Gayle will be kept on pure and simple. The reason? Because he is the only out-and-out striker United have on their books, the only one who knows where to be when the ball is in advanced positions. All of this despite the fact he has just one year left on his current deal, will, at this stage, likely leave for free next summer and is a player the Magpies have been trying to find an upgrade for since the day they returned to the top flight under Benitez.

Carroll, despite his lack of goals and injury issues, was a ‘no brainer’ for a new deal while Joelinton needs to improve massively in order to justify a third of his fee, never mind the whole thing.

As a result we have seen the likes of Callum Wilson and Josh King linked – both are players admired by Bruce. Luka Jovic is a loan option from Real Madrid, while Chris Wood links from Burnley are wide of the mark. £13 million? Try closer to £40 million for the New Zealander.

Loan options look to be United’s best options in this department – but everyone is fighting for the same type of player in what is likely to prove a very challenging summer to do business.

Left-back – Rose, Willems or other?

In an ideal world Bruce wants United to operate with a four at the back – but in that system does he have the necessary quality in that department?

In a five/three he has Matt Ritchie to do the job, but the former Bournemouth man is no four-man backline defender – and Bruce, despite having Paul Dummett on his books, wants a player to come in and fill the slot.

And in this department Bruce has an interesting dilemma with regards two former loan men.

Danny Rose is a player who remains on the radar. He is rated highly by Bruce, is not wanted at Spurs and would command a relatively low fee – a big bonus given United’s reported budget.

Jetro Willems is the other. Lockdown and football delays has been a real leveller for the Eintracht Frankfurt man, who was a touch of class down the left for United last season as a wing-back. He is now much closer to fitness than before, but still remains a risk given the nature of his injury. The Bundesliga outfit could also let him go for free, just to get him off the books.

If Bruce wants to freshen things up, he could of course dip into the scouting network’s pool of players which contains the likes of Faouzi Ghoulam.

Central midfield – the need to beef up the middle & No10

Matty Longstaff’s new deal is a massive boost for United and he will come into the reckoning this season for sure – but he will have to be patient to earn a starting slot, as will brother Sean Longstaff.

United are likely to continue with Jonjo Shelvey in the middle and will see Jeff Hendrick compete for a slot with Isaac Hayden, with the Irishman offering a little more guile and forward-thinking ability than the former Arsenal man.

With those two deals done, will Bruce feel the need to add more in this department? While Hendrick adds graft and ability with the ball at his feet, his versatility could see him shifted everywhere from the right to the centre to the No10 slot. And you can’t help but feel United are yet to really replace Mo Diame or Ayoze Perez a little further forward. The Longstaffs and Hendrick definitely mean Bruce has options, but could also create him some headaches when all fit.

Winger – United can no longer be a ‘one-trick pony’

Stop Allan Saint-Maximin, stop Newcastle United. If I was an opposition manager this would be what I’d be telling my players. It may, of course, be easier said than done, mind.

Miguel Almiron offers a different point of attack but the Magpies need more quality in this department.

Christian Atsu has never been anything more than filling a space in the squad. Honest and hard-working, but lacking any kind of real ability to damage the opposition on a consistent basis.

Jacob Murphy and Rolando Aarons just aren’t up to the job unfortunately – and Bruce is actively looking to offload the duo ASAP.

United have taken a long hard look at Ryan Fraser this summer, and in January and the summer previous. But with the player’s demands creeping higher and higher it looks like the Magpies will be beaten to the signature by Crystal Palace, or even West Ham United. Not quite the Arsenal move the Scotland international had in mind.