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These new Newcastle United signings – Credible but not Incredible

2 weeks ago
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We are now on day 42 of the 2020 summer transfer window and only two Newcastle United signings made so far.

New third choice goalkeeper Mark Gillespie arriving in early July a few weeks ahead of the window actually opening, the Geordie keeper released by Newcastle as a kid, a free agent after parting ways with Motherwell.

Then two weeks ago another free agent arrived, Jeff Hendrick having left Burnley after four years, signing for Newcastle on the 24 August.

However, with only four weeks to go until the transfer window closes on Monday 5 October, it appears that we are at last going to see some frantic (by Mike Ashley standards anyway) transfer action, with more Newcastle United signings on their way.

The four that appear to be set to arrive are Callum Wilson, Ryan Fraser, Rob Holding and Jamal Lewis.

I thought I would try and evaluate this transfer window on the (dangerous???) assumption that all four will sign up for Newcastle United without any late drama.

Football fans have always loved a lively debate (argument) but that has now gone to a whole new level with online and especially social media, as well as the likes of comments sections that you see on The Mag.

Already this weekend I have seen this seemingly imminent transfer activity rated as an astonishing success by some, whilst others see it as feeble.

I know it is dangerous but I have tried to go for the middle ground, looking at each of these six Newcastle United signings (those already made and those said to be imminent) with an unbiased eye, then coming to an overall conclusion on this NUFC window, on the assumption that these six deals will be the sum total of NUFC business on Mike Ashley’s much reported £30m allowed budget.

Mark Gillespie – Free transfer made in July

A new third choice keeper brought in to replace the departed Rob Elliot.

I think he does what it says on the tin, a credible addition for third choice, having played in the lower English divisions for Carlisle and in Scotland for Motherwell.

Jeff Hendrick – Free transfer made in August

Positives

A Premier League level player who has been a regular for four years at Burnley. A regular for the Republic of Ireland with more than 50 caps, aged 28 he should be in his prime.

Negatives

A midfielder with only five Premier League assists in four years with Burnley is poor, whilst only nine goals is not much better. Whilst only two goals in those 50+ matches with Ireland pretty much confirms we shouldn’t be expecting the midfielder to add many goals.

Callum Wilson – A £17m transfer said to be agreed with Bournemouth, with add-ons taking deal eventually up to £20m

Positives

Scored 14 PL goals in the 2018/19 Premier League season, has pace and being called up by England points to his ability as a striker, with four caps so far.

Negatives

Wilson’s other four Premier League seasons have seen goals returns of only five, six, eight and eight. The striker has had two serious ACL knee ligament injuries as well as absences through hamstring issues, which have helped contribute to lower goal tallies at times.

Jamal Lewis – A bid of £15m reported to have been accepted by Norwich

Positives

An exciting young player with a lot of potential. Only 22 and can get up and down the pitch at left-back, Liverpool were interested but made a derisory offer.

Negatives

Still relatively unproven in the top tier with only 25 Premier League starts and having played those games in a team that got relegated, makes it even more difficult to properly judge him.

Ryan Fraser – Free transfer set to happen in September

Positives

A good age (26) and scored seven PL goals in 2018/19 and got a stunning 14 assists, has a lot of pace.

Negatives

Only one goal and four assists in the Premier League in 2019/20, whilst five goals and three assists in 2017/18 and three goals and five assists in 2016/17. Not stunning stats.

Rob Holding – Loan deal set to happen in September

Positives

Has generally done a steady job when called on by Arsenal, no real red flags that would make you instantly worried. Appears to be able to handle pressure as the defender has played in three finals at Wembley and won all three, two FA Cup winners medals and also victory in the Community Shield in August.

Negatives

One of those modern day phenomenons you increasingly come across, many players at the more successful clubs who if they stay, end up reaching an age where they have played very little regular league football.

Rob Holding has only started 33 Premier  League games for Arsenal and finds himself turning 25 this month. On loan at Bolton in 2015/16 is the only time he has played week in week out and that was 26 games in the Championship that season.

So in the final analysis…

When evaluating transfer activity at any club, you obviously need to take into account the background circumstances and nowhere more so is that the case, than Newcastle United.

With Mike Ashley, fair to say that many Newcastle fans wouldn’t have been surprised if no money at all had been spent this summer, such are the low expectations.

Little wonder then that some supporters have gone way over the top when news of the likes of Fraser, Wilson and Lewis has broken.

For me, it is simply one of relief that some credible signings are finally been made.

It is ridiculous that things have been left so late for signings in the key positions (creativity, goalscoring and left-back) but that is Ashley time after time, so often leaving it late even when Newcastle do sign players.

It is 22 years since Newcastle scored fewer Premier League goals than they did in 2019/20, whilst last season saw NUFC with the third worst PL form over the final 20 games, only four wins after Christmas 2019 and two of those were against 10 men.

Sadly, with what Mike Ashley has reduced us to, unless a takeover happens, Newcastle are never going to be signing (as close as you can get to) sure things in the transfer market.

Any signing Newcastle can successfully make at the moment will carry an element of risk.

We are where we are and I would look at Hendrick and Holding as players who will do a job, whilst the hope is that Lewis, Fraser and Wilson can improve NUFC in those three areas. We need them to because otherwise it will be a relegation struggle for certain.

Callum Wilson will carry a lot of expectation and it is obviously a boost that he chose Newcastle over Villa. However, at the same time we have to be realistic and can’t expect him to do it all up front, never mind the ‘big six’, it isn’t as though ambitious clubs such as Leicester and Wolves were in for the striker, which if they had been, would have meant no chance of him coming to Newcastle in our current circumstances – reality check!

The hope has to be that whilst Lewis, Wilson and Fraser can give the team added quality, they will also help produce more from other players in the team, such as ASM, Almiron and Sean Longstaff.

Formation and tactics will also be key because if Steve Bruce goes ultra defensive like he did last season for all but a handful of matches, then yet again we will struggle for goals and end up with Callum Wilson isolated up the pitch.

The word is hope, at least we can think these signings could possibly help improve Newcastle, both in terms of performance and entertaining to watch.

These new Newcastle United signings are credible but not incredible.

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