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Opinion

Newcastle United transfer window – Only as strong as your weakest link

3 weeks ago
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This is proving to be an intriguing Newcastle United transfer window.

Around £60m committed so far, with Sven Botman, Nick Pope and Matt Targett bought in.

However, it is not only the club’s supporters who are disappointed that one or two more signings haven’t arrived so far, as Eddie Howe himself has in recent days came out and admitted that this is a tough Newcastle United transfer window, with a lot of clubs competing for a limited number of players who can make a difference.

When it is searching for attacking players who can score and create goals, as in the case with Newcastle, it becomes even more tricky, as these are the kind of signings every club would love to make.

The big difference / positive of course in this Newcastle United transfer window, is that rather than fans hoping for signings that can help NUFC avoid relegation – as was the case for so many years, it is now about adding new players who can bring success closer.

So whilst I understand any fan feeling frustrated that the couple of attacking signings haven’t been added as yet this summer, at least it isn’t yet more desperate firefighting, patching things up, hoping what you have is good enough to get you through another season.

For the vast majority of Newcastle fans, I think the big worry is summed up by that saying where you are only as strong as your weakest link.

Bottom line, if the club could get these two extra players in, the right ones, you could / would be looking at a pretty formidable starting eleven. Yes, not world beaters, but a world away from where we have come from.

I think the starting point when looking at this Newcastle United transfer window, is to first look at how many positions in the starting eleven have been significantly improved in 2022.

For starters, it is absolutely mad that under Eddie Howe and the new owners, we now have a completely new back four!

Trippier, Burn and Targett a massive move forward and improvement on who they replaced, whilst Botman is clearly another who we can expect to do the same.

Rafa Benitez did an astonishing job in terms of producing such a solid disciplined back line that was formed from a mixture of players still around from the 2016/17 promotion squad, budget signings, plus playing the odd one out of their normal position and making it work.

However, this was never going to be sustainable and it all fell apart under Steve Bruce. Not a gradual decline, more of a runaway waggon heading rapidly downhill with finally all the wheels falling off.

Quite incredible that when spending only an initial £25m on the defence in January, Eddie Howe produced such s staggering turn around at the back. The final 20 Premier League games, if you take out the defeats at Spurs and Man City, the other 18 PL games in that run-in saw only 11 goals conceded. Buying Burn and Trippier, plus loaning Targett, absolutely stellar signings that enabled that PL history making form. Never before had a club in the PL era survived, after winning none of their opening 14 games.

Anyway, back to the current situation.

So for me, I think it is absolutely clear that all four positions in defence have been massively improved by 2022 signings.

I think this could also prove to be the case in goal, though not possibly to the extent in the back four. Bottom line though, Dubravka has done well but I think Nick Pope has been brought in to be number one and will prove even better.

Whilst when it comes to the sixth improved position / player in 2022, I am confident absolutely nobody will disagree, Bruno Guimaraes has been outstanding and very exciting to think how good he could be this coming season.

So, we are now up to six positions improved already in 2022 when it comes to the NUFC starting eleven.

Meanwhile, Joelinton has proved to be one of those very rare players who is indeed, like a brand new signing. Since Eddie Howe worked his magic and forged a new role for the £40m man, he has arguably, looked like a £40m man…

So that is seven positions now significantly improved in the first choice Newcastle eleven.

Callum Wilson of course automatically fills an eighth place in the strongest eleven, with everybody hoping he can stay fit. Whilst I think the vast majority of fans would also accept that ASM is another who is an easy pick, though for both himself and the team to progress, the Frenchman has to up his end product. A combined ten goals and assists made him Newcastle’s most productive player last season but that was a team avoiding relegation and this one now is surely a team / club aiming for top eight. Aiming for, not automatically expecting.

So coming back to the idea that a football team is only as good as its weakest link, we have the two other places in the first choice side to fill.

With the keeper and new (2022) back four outlined above, then Joelinton and Bruno playing in front of them. We are now left with the tantalising thought of what could be possible if adding the right pair of signings to play with ASM and Wilson and complete the team.

I am guessing the big frustration for a lot of fans is seeing some of the potential signings that Newcastle have been linked with to complete their summer transfer window, then comparing those transfer targets with what the current options are.

I suppose maybe we could look at these two potential additions as the icing on the cake and then the cherry on top, really making us lick our lips in anticipation of the season ahead.

Of the current options, they all added / contributed something last season but nowhere near enough in reality, when it comes to being first choice along the nine players outlined above. Almiron scored that goal of the season contender against Palace but it was his only goal all season, Joe Willock produced that superb run up the wing that ended with Bruno scoring the sensational last gasp winner against Leicester but very few other times did the former Arsenal man threaten anything of the same level, whilst Ryan Fraser had his moments but yet again, not enough of them. Can Jonjo Shelvey and / or Sean Longstaff show that they should be automatic selections?

I think for this handful of players, any / all of them would need to play at their very maximum to successfully fill one of those two remaining spots in the team week after week. It is possible, though unlikely.

Talking of players as the weakest link in a team might seen disrespectful to some but simply a statement of fact. If any of you listed our best eleven currently from strongest to weakest, almost every single fan would have the same nine (in whatever order), with then these two other positions having no clear ideal winners.

I think realistically / hopefully, another automatic first team regular can be signed in the near future, two is maybe an unattainable dream in this window.

One thing for sure though, we are heading in the right direction and 2022 has been an absolutely remarkable transformation when it comes to this Newcastle United team, even if we didn’t get a single other signing this summer.

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