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Are Newcastle United stronger than last season? – Position by position analysed

3 years ago

When Newcastle United kick off on Sunday, will that team be stronger than the one that played in the Championship?

Obviously we all hope so but will the eleven selected be able to cope with the step up to the top tier?

I have looked at the individuals set to be involved tomorrow and compared them to what Newcastle had last season.

Obviously injuries, fitness and inexperienced signings having to wait for their chance, will all play a part in the selection against Tottenham, but here are my thoughts on the team I expect to see chosen – which is the one that started both of the final two pre-season friendlies.

Rob Elliot 

Karl Darlow played most of last season once Matz Sels was sidelined and then Elliot had to wait until the last few games before replacing the former Forest keeper.

Rafa Benitez has made no secret of his desire to bring in a new experienced number one but in the meantime I don’t see any difference between Elliot and Darlow so this position is neither stronger or weaker than last season in my opinion.

Javier Manquillo

I have to say I was looking forward to seeing DeAndre Yedlin this season, so gutted to see him injured and missing the kick-off. His pace was a major asset last season, particularly in attack, and he will be badly missed I think with the potential to unsettle the opposition. Manquillo has done ok in pre-season, though against generally weak opposition and of course in a more laidback friendly environment.

Hopefully he can put last season’s nightmare at Sunderland behind him but at the minute I have to say right-back is weaker than last season with Yedlin.

Ciaran Clark

Easily Newcastle’s best defender and has strolled through pre-season once again looking the part.

No reason to see any dip in form with him so same again.

Florian Lejeune

Has played more minutes in pre-season than any other player and with Lascelles injured has had the chance to show a good all round game. Dominant in the air and definitely more mobile and better on the ball than Lascelles, so I see definite signs that he has strengthened that position and the team.

Paul Dummett

You know what you get and same as last season, will give it everything.

Definitely no reason to think he will be any better or worse than we have seen in any of his seasons in the first team.

Matt Ritchie

Like Ciaran Clark, a key player who looks the part going into this new season.

Very consistent and the same level from him.

Jonjo Shelvey

Obviously a/the key player for Newcastle if the Magpies are to thrive this season.

He may be the same person but actually he looks to be more mobile and fitter than last season when he had also stepped up, so I think both he and his position in the team has improved.

Isaac Hayden

A young player so plenty of room for improvement still to come. Very solid and complemented Shelvey last season.

At the moment I would see both Hayden and this position in the team as being at the same level as in the Championship, though hopefully by the end of the season will have shown he has gone up a level.

Christian Atsu

A tricky one. Yoan Gouffran was dependable in the Championship but nowhere near good enough for the Premier League.

Atsu has got pace and a certain level of skill, though at 25 is still yet to show anything at a decent level in club football. Could go either way with him but I’m seeing him as looking a slight improvement on last season (Gouffran) but with potential to be a lot better (or a little worse).

Ayoze Perez

Flatters to deceive and last season shared the number 10 position with Diame, neither of them good enough to keep their place regularly.

Also a big season for him as he has been hit and miss in his three seasons so far at NUFC. I rate him and the position no better or worse than the last campaign.

Aleksandar Mitrovic

The biggest blow, with Dwight Gayle set to be on the bench at best and Rafa blocked so far from bringing in another quality striker.

Only 11 starts in the Championship for Mitro showing Rafa’s opinion of him and the Serbian needs to massively step up his game to prove anywhere near as dangerous/useful as Gayle.

With Gayle having hamstring/confidence issues and playing just 30 minutes of the final three friendlies, surely no way he will start tomorrow. So can only see Mitro and the main striker position as a major step down on Gayle last season.

Looking back at my ratings on all 11 positions in Newcastle’s likely team to play Spurs, I make it:

Improvement on last season: Lejeune, Shelvey, Atsu

Same level: Elliot, Clark, Dummett, Ritchie, Hayden, Perez

Weaker than last season: Manquillo, Mitrovic

So three better and two weaker, with six positions of a similar level.

Lejeune improving things at the back but Gayle’s absence (and no new striker or number 10) means it could be more of a struggle going forward. Though hopefully Shelvey can influence things still at Premier League level.

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