The 3rd July brought us pictures of Newcastle players returning to the training ground to start their pre-season preparations.
While the pictures told a story of players returning with nice tans, Rafa looking happy, and a new training kit, it also showed another untold story at the club so far. That is, the pictures showed the full extent of the difficulties Rafa Benitez is facing in the transfer market this summer.
While lots of fans on social media, including myself, have noted the issues Newcastle have faced in getting players through the door this summer (Reina, Abraham, Semedo), it could be that it is the issue of getting players out of the door that will be the major stumbling obstacle to a successful summer.
What Monday showed was that for Newcastle to really get their teeth into the transfer market, you would have to expect that they must shift some players out of the club as soon as possible…and boy there is a lot to shift!
It might not feel like it but Newcastle’s squad is huge.
For the Premier League next season a squad size of 25 senior professionals is the maximum allowed and these have to be named once the transfer window ends. From those 25 players, at least eight must be “homegrown” players who have come through a domestic development system.
This was implemented by the PL in order to encourage teams to develop their own talent. For example, under-21 players (For the 2017/18 campaign Under-21 players will have to have been born on or after 1 January 1996) can be used even if they are not named on the 25-man squad list, thus there is a further incentive for them to use more “homegrown” players.
At the moment, the present squad looks like this:
Goalkeeper: Tim Krul, Freddie Woodman (U21), Karl Darlow, Rob Elliott
The goalkeeper issue is a big one. It would appear from those keepers we have been linked with so far (Joe Hart now mentioned) that Rafa is after experience between the sticks. Consequently, if a keeper was brought in then that would make it five first team keepers at the club.
Subsequently, in order for Rafa to sign a goalkeeper, you would imagine that Charnley and the board would expect assurances that at least two keepers will be on the move in the opposite direction.
Left-Back: Paul Dummett, Achraaf Lazaar, Massadio Haidara
You would hope that Newcastle are after a left-back to be able to put pressure on Paul Dummett this season.
However, based on the current numbers I can’t see the club sanctioning the signing of a left-back until they know that at least one of Haidara or Lazaar (maybe both) are going to be leaving. Given the fact that I personally think Gamez and Colback will stay, two players who can also play there if needed, then I can’t see the board going being willing to have three first team left-backs on the books.
If a left-back is to be brought in then expect Lazaar to go out on loan and it wouldn’t surprise me if Haidara was released early from his contract.
Centre-Back: Jamaal Lascelles, Grant Hanley, Ciaran Clark, Chancel Mbemba, Florian Lejeune
This is an area where I don’t see a great issue at all.
The signing of Florian Lejeune takes the current tally to five centre-backs, but with Grant Hanley set to be moved on, perhaps to Sheffield Wednesday, then we will be left with four decent centre-backs (although none of us have really seen Lejeune play so fingers crossed).
Four centre-backs is the ideal amount and it worked well last year. Even in a true crisis, the likes of Dummett and Hayden can slot in for the odd game.
Right-Back: DeAndre Yedlin, Jesus Gamez, Jamie Sterry
Again, if another full back is going to come in then you would expect that one of the right-backs above will have to be sold. I think Jamie Sterry will have to go out on loan to the Championship, at 21, if he isn’t going out loan to the Championship then he really isn’t good enough.
Perhaps Rafa will view having three right-backs will be okay given the fact that Gamez is versatile and Rafa may be relying on him more for his experience rather than playing time.
Centre Midfield: Henri Saivet, Jonjo Shelvey, Isaac Hayden, Jack Colback
At the moment, I think that this is the weakest area of the team. Hayden is still young with no top flight experience and Colback was very poor last season, so I think we need two new centre midfielders to be able to compete sufficiently this year.
However, I would be surprised if even one came in before the club were assured that Saivet will be off the wage bill. Although I want two new centre midfielders, I can’t see Colback leaving so I think Rafa will settle for just one, knowing that Diame can also fill in.
Wingers: Rolando Aarons, Matt Ritchie, Yoan Gouffran, Christian Atsu
This is another area where you would expect that Rafa has another winger, or two, lined up.
Yet again though, that would require one of Aarons, Ritchie, Gouffran or Atsu leaving. Will Gouffran sign a new deal? I think he will, so that would surely leave Aarons being the one to go. Regardless, Aarons is a player who has to go out on loan otherwise his playing time is going to be limited.
Attacking Midfielder (No.10): Ayoze Perez, Mo Diame, Siem De Jong
A new number 10 would be my No.1 aim for this summer. I would love to see us go out and break our transfer record on a real classy player.
Although Sigurdsson is probably out of the question, a player of his ability is much needed this season. If that did happen, it would take us to four attacking midfielders for only position. This obviously is unlikely to remain this way, although Perez can of course play out on the left-hand side.
One of Perez, Diame, or De Jong will definitely leave, likely to be De Jong, but if we are to bring in a genuinely quality no 10 then maybe two of those will have to go.
Strikers: Adam Armstrong (U21), Dwight Gayle, Alex Mitrovic, Daryl Murphy, Manu Riviere
If there is one thing we have learnt and that you can guarantee, it is that Rafa will only play with one striker.
This means that NUFC currently have five players fighting for one position. If we bring in a proven striker to compete with Gayle, which we need to do, that would make it six.
Also, take into account the fact that Perez and Gouffran (kind of) have shown they can play up front under Rafa, this would potentially make it eight centre forwards competing for one position. It is just not going to happen and so you can guarantee that there will lots of movement in the striking department.
It wouldn’t surprise me if Newcastle don’t sign a striker until the very last few days of the window when they know just exactly what they have to deal with. Riviere will definitely go and Armstrong will surely go back out on loan or on a permanent. Even then, you still have 4/5 players, so don’t be surprised if Mitro goes too.
What is for certain, is that given the past five years of what can only be described as utter garbage performances in the transfer market, this is going to be one long old summer.
Newcastle are starting again and so both Charnley and Ashley will be extra careful to make sure that there is no reoccurrence of a Henri Saivet, or make sure that there are no six year contracts handed out to another Manu Riviere.
This will make this summer a long and slow one and it wouldn’t surprise me if business goes all the way down to the last day, just so that the squad is in order, the finances are right and no players are getting changed for training in the toilets.
What we do know for certain is that at the moment Newcastle currently have 29 players (excluding Under 21 players that don’t have to be registered).
This means that if say 6 more (as well as Lejeune and Atsu) Newcastle players are brought in, which most fans would agree are needed for us to be able to compete sufficiently, then other players simply HAVE to leave in order to make space in the squad. Bearing in mind that the likes of Krul, Hanley, Gamez, Saivet, De Jong and Riviere will be on wages and contracts that probably don’t correlate with their ability on a football pitch, then it might be difficult to get rid of them
It is definitely going to be a long July and probably a long August too…
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