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Opinion

No panic as these short-term fixes can fill the 2 Newcastle United first team places up for grabs

1 month ago
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The Newcastle United first team squad have their first pre-season friendly tomorrow.

Gateshead are the visitors at the NUFC training ground for a behind closed doors run out, to start getting things into gear.

A rapid pre-season sees the Newcastle United first team players then next week moving on to Austria for a training camp, which includes another couple of friendlies against German clubs.

After that training camp and friendlies, we only have little more than two weeks until the big kick off on Saturday 6 August.

Newcastle United are in a good place, the business done so far in 2022 has significantly strengthened both the first tea and the bench

So many players have stayed at St James’ Park far too long and certainly in a football (not money!) sense, it hasn’t benefited either the club or the individuals I’m referring to.

I’m not naming names but the vast majority of them have put in decent shifts at one time and another, just a case of they need to move on and should have done years ago when it comes to most of them.

On a more positive note though, Eddie Howe and Newcastle United are now ready to move forward, building on the work done so far, the signings made, plus of course that outstanding second half of last season form.

As I see it, there are two Newcastle United first team places still up for grabs as things stand, 29 days before we play Nottingham Forest.

No need to panic though, as we do have short-term fixes that are capable of filling those gaps in the meantime.

The dream of course would be for Eddie Howe to land absolute first team automatic choices in this transfer window for these gaps, but even without them, I think we are set for a good go at this start to the season and hopefully beyond.

These are the nine Newcastle United first team places that I think are already taken for when the season kicks off…

Pope or Dubravka, Trippier, Botman, Burn, Targett, Bruno G, Joelinton, ASM, Wilson

I can’t really split the keepers and maybe Eddie Howe hasn’t decided either at this point, with half a dozen friendlies plus a month on the training pitch, plenty time for him to come to his conclusion. Goalkeeping a big strength now anyway.

As for the ten NUFC outfield spots, I would be amazed if the eight above aren’t already noted down by Howe as first eleven inclusions. Doesn’t mean that other players aren’t good enough, I just think that these stand out as easy choices. If say Fabian Schar ends up starting plenty games instead of Botman and / or Burn for any reason, then I won’t lose any sleep.

As for the other two spaces to be filled in what I regard as Eddie Howe’s Newcastle United first team, I think clearly he would love to have Diaby or similar coming in, to make a forward trio with Wilson and ASM.

If that doesn’t happen, then I think Fraser and Almiron between them can fill the gap. They have different strengths and especially when in a position where they have pressure on their place in the team, they can raise their games in short bursts to make themselves more than good enough. You are maybe even looking at Fraser and Almiron picked by Howe to do a certain / different jobs in certain matches – maybe Fraser more for home games, Almiron possibly for more tricky away games where NUFC will be forced to defend more.

I think the problem comes with the least strongest players in your team, when they are expected to play week in week out and especially if they aren’t worried about somebody taking their place.

It is exactly the same in the other position I consider still up for grabs, who plays with Joelinton and Bruno G in midfield?

Jonjo Shelvey played better once Eddie Howe came in AND actually started running around! I don’t think he was in anyway outstanding but probably showed enough to suggest he can be of use in a certain number of games this season, unless Howe brings in a certain starter for this position.

As with right wing, we have competition for his midfield/ Shelvey position, with Sean Longstaff and Joe Willock pushing for a place. Longstaff showed late in the season some of the form that impressed us when first playing under Rafa, whilst Willock looked like he might also be recovering from the shambles that existed before Eddie Howe arrived last season.

Anyway, between the three of them, I think they can also do a job in that midfield position. If Newcastle did bring in a certain starter alongside the Brazilian duo in midfield, then I think one or two out of that trio (Shelvey, Longstaff, Willock) would then leave.

It is a nice feeling to be now looking at the rest of the transfer window as an enjoyable aside, great if we do further strengthen with a Diaby or whoever, BUT also safe in the knowledge that there is already a team / squad in place at St James’ Park that looks capable of taking on this upcoming season.

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