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Opinion

Newcastle United raiding the relegated – Summer 2021

2 months ago
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I have been writing a yearly edition of this Newcastle United article since 2014.

Each year, at the end of the season, I try and identify a selection of players from the relegated teams that I feel NUFC should target in the summer transfer window.

It’s a transfer strategy that we have started to adopt in the last few years with six players signing from relegated sides in the last three summers alone.

Rondon, Wilson and Fraser were identified in previous editions of my article and the two strikers both went on to have successful debut seasons. In fact, both went on to be the club’s official player of the season. The jury is out on Fraser still and we all hope he can stay injury free and show some of the form that had him so highly rated at Bournemouth a few seasons ago.

The other three relegated players signed in this three-year period were Fernandez, Lewis and Ki.

Ki was an okay squad player who made some decent contributions. Lewis has struggled this season but has youth on his side and Fernandez has been an absolute rock for the past three years.

So out of six players signed I would say fifty percent have been massive successes, one was average and the other two have been poor in their debut season, but have time on their side to turn that around.

I therefore don’t acknowledge that you can’t pick up decent players from a team that has been relegated. Just because a team was so poor that it went down, it doesn’t mean every individual component is unworthy. In fact, there’s usually an array of highly talented players that suffer the misfortune of relegation. Wijnaldum, Sissoko, Grealish, Shaqiri, Traore and Robertson, to name but a handful, have all experienced it in the last five years and gone on to have respectable (in some cases outstanding) careers elsewhere (or in Grealish’s case remaining where he was). I don’t think we would turn down the option of having any of these players in our team.

This year has been the hardest one yet to find anyone worthy of recruiting. Usually there’s a standout player or two in the relegated teams and quite often there’s a handful of players that I consider worthy of a punt. This year though the relegated teams have been particularly shocking. In fact, the majority of the players that I would take are loanees and therefore don’t qualify for this list.

I think Joachim Andersen of Fulham would slot into our ageing defence nicely and upgrade it but he has been highly praised and will be setting his sights a little higher than us this summer. Ademola Lookman would give us another option in the wing/forward areas, Conor Gallagher has been a bright spark at West Brom and reminds me both in looks and playing style of Todd Cantwell who I liked (and selected in a previous edition of this article) at Norwich the year before, Ainsley Maitland-Niles is someone we’ve been linked with several times and can play in a multitude of positions. He would give us an extra option at wing back, full back and centre midfield. Even Ruben Loftus-Cheek is someone I would take a gamble on. He didn’t shine at all last season and at 25 I think he will move on now for a relatively reasonable fee. I don’t know what’s happened to him because at times he looked brilliant at Chelsea. I’ve been going to England games regularly for the last three years and I thought he always looked comfortable at international level and was a player that was going to develop into a top midfielder. He’s completely stagnated over the last couple of seasons, but I think given a permanent move and an opportunity to play week in week out, there’s still a player there. I would have him in our midfield in a heartbeat if we can get him for a decent price.

Also, a note on goalkeepers. I think all three relegated goalies are decent. Areola is obviously yet another loan, Johnstone and Ramsdale (despite his second relegated season in a row) are both solid, but this is one area that we have zero need of improvement. Dubravka is a fantastic number one, Darlow an able deputy and let’s not forget the young talent of Woodman who has just won the Championship Golden Glove and will have decisions to make this summer.

Anyway, onto the limited pool of relegated individuals I will be selecting. I’ve said individuals and not players and that’s because, for the first time, there’s a manager I would go for.

Scott Parker

I’ve never once selected a manager in all the previous editions of this article. If I could click my fingers and get any manager here, my first choice would be Rafa. Whether the takeover happens or not he would be my guy all day long. The naysayers will say that the football was just as bad under Rafa and Bruce got just as many points last season. I genuinely believe though that if Rafa had continued his project and got the backing that Bruce had, we would have been in the top ten minimum last season. Relegation wouldn’t have even been a topic.

If the takeover doesn’t happen and we’re looking for someone who can work within the tight-fisted shambles of a regime that Ashley instigates then we could do a lot worse than Parker. This might seem foolish considering our former captain just finished seventeen points below us. However, he had one hell of a task to keep Fulham up this season.

With his squad needing an overhaul they looked excessively to the loan market. Two or three loan signings can be beneficial to a team. Indeed, Joe Willock has proven to be one of our most important players this season having come in on a half season loan. But when you have seven coming in, most of them drafted into the first team, it must be difficult to instil cohesion.

Whereas some such as Andersen, Lookman and Areola have been successful, there have been others such as Maja and Loftus-Cheek who have failed to impress. In total, Fulham brought in thirteen new players last season, the most expensive of these, Anthony Knockaert, cost over a third of their spend at just over £10 million and was loaned instantly out to Forest in the Championship. Integrating so many new players, most of them straight into the first team, cannot be an easy job. I mean, Bruce has spent two seasons telling us his players can’t adapt from the way they were taught to play back when the mighty Rafa was in charge. What hope would Parker have with a whole new first team over the course of just one season?

Fulham have played attractive football and have always seemed to be in games, regularly losing by the odd goal and drawing far too many matches. What they’ve lacked is a Wilson. If they had a quality focal point, a man that was confident in front of goal, I think they would have scored plenty more this season. A lot of those draws could have become wins and the losses turned into draws.

Given our squad, I think Parker could get us playing far better football and earning more points than the current incumbent. In all honesty, who in Fulham’s first team would get into our first team? Joachim Anderson probably, maybe Lookman (and someone else that I’ll identify shortly). That would be it for me. Parker is a young manager with a positive attitude and playing style. Bring him in along with the couple of players I’m about to identify and we’ve got a middle of the table/top half team in the making. You may think we finished the season as a middle of the table team but we were 10 points off 11th and 14th off 10th, so I’d say we were more of a top of the bottom of the table team.

Matheus Pereira

If there’s been one standout player from this miserable relegated crop it’s been Pereira. He reminds me of a Perez type player with a deft touch and ability to do something special. He’s quicker and stronger than Perez too but with the same instinctive finishing ability. He can operate anywhere across the forward line and would give us an extra option. We need other players that can score and create goals if/when the likes of ASM and Wilson get injured and he can certainly do that. He’d probably go for a few bob but maybe we could negotiate a cash plus player deal and send Gayle the other way.

Dwight has proven time and again that he can score goals in the second tier, including for the Baggies. He’s also at the stage where he is offering little for us and taking up a senior squad place. West Brom paid £9million for Pereira and will be looking to make a hefty profit on this. However, priority number one will be returning to the Premier League so with Gayle going the other way could we cut a bargain?

The major issue with this is that Gayle turns 32 in October and has been a bit part player for the last two seasons, only scoring five goals. Will he still have the ability to replicate his 23 goal season that he had in his loan spell at the Hawthorns?

The other question is whether Gayle has actually signed a contract. It was highly reported at the end of Marc but it doesn’t appear to have been officially announced. Considering he got limited opportunities after that announcement, I can’t see why he’d be interested in signing an extension now if it hadn’t previously been finalised. Wilson spent the last few games injured and Gayle still wasn’t getting starts.

Having just turned 25, Pereira has his best years ahead of him. He scored 11 goals and laid on 5 assists last season. Only Wilson scored more goals for us than that. What an upgrade he’d be on that other Brazilian.

Andre-Frank Anguissa

Central midfield is a place that Newcastle United need drastic improvement. If I had my way, I would give Hendrick away to anyone willing to pay postage and I would ship Shelvey off for a few million. We might be able to con a recently promoted side into taking a punt on Jonjo, or an ambitious Championship club might make him their marquee signing. Remember, he looked a class above in the Championship campaign and our runs of bad form were often when he wasn’t available.

To bolster up and improve our engine room I would look no further than Anguissa. He has gone from strength to strength this season. I don’t remember him being any good when Fulham originally went down two years ago, but he seemed to regain his confidence and ability in a season on loan to Villarreal in 19/20. Last year he was one of Fulham’s best players and is a combative midfielder who can carry the ball too. The fact that he completed as many successful dribbles as Saint-Maximin from two less attempts tells you all you need to know. We need a box-to-box player, and this guy could be it.

He doesn’t score goals, which would be a problem for a player in that role, but he can wrestle the ball back, drive forward and link up play better than all of our current options. With him and Hayden/Sean Longstaff breaking up play it would give Almiron a lot more freedom to forage forward and join ASM and Wilson higher up the pitch.

He is probably going to command a half decent fee and it may be that Fulham opt to loan him out for their Championship campaign again, if they don’t get a suitable permanent offer. With only two years remaining on his contract though, they will probably be looking to raise some money on one of their star assets to give them some finances to start their rebuild once more.

And that’s it. That’s all I’ve got this time around.

If you’ve got any suggestions, I would be happy to read them in the chat. The age-old debate of Mitrovic could spark up. I personally was pro-Mitrovic and it frustrates me that he hasn’t become a Premier League standard striker. He always looks exceptional at international level and is already Serbia’s record goal scorer at the age of 26. But something is missing there.

He needs to go to a team that plays to his strengths and allows him to play every game and that wouldn’t happen at Newcastle. Maybe we could take a chance on someone like Rhian Brewster. He was highly rated, and cost Sheffield United a fortune but was largely anonymous and didn’t get any goals last season. A year in the Championship might do him good and would probably be the best option for him. However, he is someone that again we could potentially secure by sending Gayle the other way. I would rather a young player that can improve as a squad player than one who is only getting older, depreciating in value and not getting a chance even when our top striker is injured. Realistically though, Sheffield United are unlikely to want to go for a straight swap deal as I’d imagine they’d like to recoup more of their money on the striker. It would probably be more beneficial to take him to the Championship and build him back up.

If Newcastle United could draft in Pereira and Anguissa and send the likes of Gayle and Shelvey in the other directions, plus cash, I feel we would have upgraded our side considerably. The problem is that both of those players are likely to go quickly to clubs willing to pay cash for them.

As we know, our club doesn’t like to act quickly when doing anything so these players will probably be at new clubs long before Mike Ashley picks up the phone and instructs Charnley to begin Operation Cheapskate.

You can follow the author on Twitter @billymerlin

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