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Opinion

Do these signings make it a good/great/not bad January transfer window for Newcastle United?

9 months ago
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Only seven days to go until this January transfer window is history for Newcastle United.

Only hours after the window closes at 11pm on 31 January, Newcastle play their next Premier League match, home to Norwich City.

What kind of shape will the NUFC team/squad be in by that point?

So far, the only confirmed arrival is central midfielder Nabil Bentaleb on loan with a buying option at the end of the season, an amount which is wildly reported to be £8.5m.

Thursday night then brought reports/confirmation across the board that Valentino Lazaro is flying into Newcastle for a medical today (Friday), with another loan plus buying option agreed (reportedly £20m) for the summer. Lazaro usually players right side of midfield/wing, or right wing-back, though he has turned out occasionally on the left side.

Asked about the January transfer window, Steve Bruce has said:

“We will be without Jetro Willems and Paul Dummett for the rest of the season.

“Hopefully though by the time we have played Norwich, I am quietly confident everybody else will be fit.

“If there is somebody better who can improve the squad, I will try to act, but what is the point [if potential signings are no better than what we have already got]?”

Bring in a striker?

“If Andy Carroll and Yoshinori Muto are going to be fit in the next two weeks then what would be the point in bringing in somebody if they aren’t any better?

“I won’t be dragged into that. I will have to be patient and go with what we’ve got.”

Assuming Lazaro does end up completing his loan move, where does that leave us?

Well, from where I am standing, it hasn’t massively increased the team’s goal power/threat, which I think is the most glaring problem Newcastle have.

Bentaleb hasn’t scored in open play since November 2016 and in the past 32 months, Lazaro has only scored five goals in league matches.

Steve Bruce’s comments about Andy Carroll and Yoshinori Muto are surely laughable, at least in terms of them adding any significant number of goals, if any, in the remaining games.

Neither have scored a single goal so far in the Premier League this season and I’d be amazed if Carroll is in shape to start more than one or two of the remaining 14 PL matches, whilst Muto will only play if everybody else is knackered.

You can add Dwight Gayle into the mix and the reality is that simply Mike Ashley won’t allow a striker to be brought in this month. The injuries to Muto and Gayle have ensured there is no chance of them leaving  this month, even on loan, so no way that Ashley would countenance allowing another forward to come in, with say Gayle and Muto fit again in February/May and both picking up decent wages, despite not in the squad, never mind the first team!

Which then makes the Bentaleb signing a strange one. With Shelvey, Hayden, Ki and the Longstaff brothers all featuring this month in the first team, having now six central midfielders is a crowded picture, never mind Saivet and Colback who aren’t even in Newcastle’s Premier League squad.

With Ashley allowing Bentaleb to even come in on loan, you have to assume that Ki must definitely be on his way and I think at least one other, maybe just Matty Longstaff on loan, or just maybe more of a surprise midfield departure that could yet yield Mike Ashley a decent January transfer window profit. I really wouldn’t be surprised to see one of Hayden, Shelvey or even Sean Longstaff leave, if a tempting offer (for Ashley) came in. The first two only have one more year to go on their current contracts, whilst Sean Longstaff will always be a tempting sell for Ashley – considering he cost nothing.

One thing I do find amusing/bizarre, is that Newcastle fans overwhelmingly appear to take for granted that loan deals with option to buy can only be positive for NUFC. As in, you get to try before you buy, takes the risk factor out of it etc etc.

All very strange because for me it is the opposite.

Newcastle United have zero ambition under Mike Ashley, so for example, take Valentino Lazaro.

He had clubs chasing him last summer before Inter Milan won the race and paid £20m, joining a club challenging for the league (second at the minute) and competing in the Champions League, it hasn’t worked out, Lazaro with only three league starts and no CL ones.

Surely Valentino Lazaro will still have the same ambitions he had in his head last summer.

So if in these next few months Lazaro puts in some stunning form, do you really think he would automatically be wanting to tie himself to Mike Ashley/NUFC?

Newcastle have a price for an option to buy but the player still has the option to say no and move elsewhere. You know, one that is trying to compete for trophies and wants to play in Europe.

If Newcastle had paid £20m for Valentino Lazaro this month, then I would have seen it as a very decent signing. A loan with option to buy is a halfway house, no proper commitment on either side.

It isn’t like loan deals such as Mikel Merino where a small number of appearances automatically triggers a permanent deal, an arrangement really simply to allow delayed payment of the transfer fee.

I really hope that Bentaleb and Lazaro (assuming he signs etc etc) are massive successes (and any other January signings) in the remaining few months of this season and agree to sign permanently in the summer.

However, the elephant in the room is the lack of goals and with Steve Bruce clearly under orders to play Joelinton no matter what, it is difficult to see any improvement on that front in the foreseeable future. Especially when Steve Bruce hangs up the potential return of Carroll and Muto as grounds for hope of adding more goals…

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