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What would constitute a successful January for Newcastle United?

Jake Jackman

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Newcastle United
Photo: Reuters

Newcastle United are headed into the January transfer window desperate for reinforcements as they prepare for another relegation battle. There was friction between Rafa Benitez and Mike Ashley during the summer, as the Magpies’ boss felt that he had been short-changed when it came to recruitment.

There is no doubting that the club already had a good squad filled with hard-working players, but it was always going to be a stretch for them to survive comfortably without added quality. Their manager realised that and his warnings in the media are now beginning to be proven true.

The board now have another opportunity to put that right, but the impending takeover clouds the waters. Ashley is in between a rock and a hard place, as the club is unlikely to be his in May, but if he fails to invest and relegation looks likely, Amanda Staveley may choose to walk away.

The Premier League adds a lot of value to the club and the current owner would be a fool to allow their position in the division to be under any more threat than necessary. Benitez realises the fragile nature of the club’s current position as the following quotes reported by The Guardian show:

“I hope that Mike Ashley is clever enough to understand. What I say is it’s his team, his business, he wants the best for the team.”

“We’ve been progressing and talking about names and the way to move forward. We’re going slowly but I think we can have some good news in the next couple of weeks.”

Although Benitez talks of being hopeful of good news, he is a realist and his previous experiences with Ashley suggest that investment is far from certain. There was conflict last January and again during the summer. It seems that the moment the owner decided to sell the club, his willingness to spend his own money decreased hugely.

He may be ready to take a step back already, but until the club is sold, it remains his responsibility and the coming window could be the most important of his long tenure as owner.

Despite being given a small budget in the summer, Benitez showed that he could still find value for money in the transfer market. Joselu may not be the best Premier League striker, but he is functional and brings out the best in those around him. A return of three goals and one assist may not seem great, but for a £5 million investment, he has managed to contribute.

Mikel Merino has been the best signing made by Newcastle and has emerged as one of the team’s most important players. If the Spanish manager can find another three or four like him, the Magpies will be in a strong position to stay in the top flight.

In an ideal world, Benitez would like to strengthen across the pitch. However, it is difficult to bring in a whole new team in January. This means the manager is going to have to focus on two or three positions that he feels are the weakest in the current squad. At the time of writing, those are likely to be goalkeeper, attacking midfield and striker.

During the summer, Newcastle supporters were surprised that Rafa Benitez was looking to sign a goalkeeper, given they already had Rob Elliot and Karl Darlow on their books. Both of whom have impressed in a Newcastle shirt. However, as the season has developed, neither have looked to have the quality needed to be a Premier League number one.

Both are decent keepers, who can do a job for a period, but the Magpies will want better if they are to progress under a manager that will have lofty ambitions long-term.

It is difficult so suggest names of goalkeepers that Newcastle could target, but it is a position they should look to strengthen in January. Michel Vorm is a potential target given Tottenham have three good individuals capable of playing well between the sticks.

Another goalkeeper that will be keen to look for first-team football is Maarten Stekelenburg, who has been pushed further down the pecking order at Everton by Jordan Pickford. A manager as intelligent as Benitez will have a number of names that he is following across Europe as well.

The creative midfielder position is more clear-cut for Newcastle as they have a long-term target who could be available this January. The Magpies failed to convince Fulham to sell Tom Cairney last January and in the summer, but the struggles of the Cottagers could see them choose to cash in on their club captain. They were expected to challenge for promotion, but they are in 12th at the time of writing.

Although a play-off push remains a possibility, it remains a long-shot that they will return to the Premier League this season. At the age of 26, the Scottish international is running out of time to test himself in the top-flight. If Benitez returns with a bid this month, a deal could happen.

It is important for Newcastle to add creativity to their ranks, as they lack a quality number ten. Ayoze Perez is industrious, but he lacks the physicality to thrive in the role, while Mo Diame has proven that he is better in the middle of the park. Cairney has the quality to contribute in the final third.

His tally of one goal and one assist this season isn’t great proof of that, but it may be that he needs a transfer to refocus his motivation. The Scottish international is able to drop into midfield if required and that makes him a great fit at St James’ Park.

Aleksandar Mitrovic wants to leave Newcastle United this month and that will provide funds for the club to spend if they can find a destination for him. However, that will mean that the club need at least one new striker, preferably two.

Liverpool‘s Danny Ings has been mentioned as a target and he would be a useful addition, but supporters will be hoping for a more reliable signing, as the Liverpool striker would represent a risk.

One bonus of it being a World Cup year is that some high-quality players will be available for loans in January as those not playing regularly will want to do all they can to make the summer tournament.

Two Premier League strikers that Newcastle should ask about are Daniel Sturridge and Michy Batshuayi. They have seven Premier League starts between them and neither have started in the month of December. If they have serious World Cup ambitions, they will push for loan moves this month.

Jake is a student based in the South East. He is a Newcastle fan and has a keen interest in Dutch football. Jake can be found on Twitter here - @jakejackmann.

England National Team

“No surprise”: Twitter reacts to rumours of Newcastle’s Jonjo Shelvey’s England return

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Photo: Getty Images.

When news broke that Newcastle United midfielder Jonjo Shelvey could be in line for an England recall, fans around the country reacted in a variety of ways, both of joy and dread, that the former Liverpool man could be on the plane to Russia.

The Times say that his form, combined with fitness concerns over Jack Wilshere and Adam Lallana, have put him in the frame, and England boss Gareth Southgate is set watch as his Magpies team face Everton on Monday.

The 26-year-old has been key to Rafa Benitez’s side this season as they have re-established themselves back in the top flight of English football.

(Photo credit should read PAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty Images)

Shelvey has already got six England caps to his name, the most recent coming in November 2015 against France, and he could now earn a return two and a half years later.

His sparkling form has caught the eye as all three goals he has been involved with this season (one goal and two assists) have come in his last four appearances.

Here’s how Twitter reacted to the news…

Many believed it was about time…

Plenty made comparisons to the alternatives, with two in particular coming up a few times…

He’s made some eat their words…

Yet not all agreed…

After three years in the international wilderness, Jonjo Shelvey will need to maintain his current form if he is to enter into the fight to earn himself a ticket on the plane to Russia as a surprise inclusion in Gareth Southgate’s squad to face Belgium, Panama and Tunisia in World Cup Group G.

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Newcastle United

Fernando Torres should reunite with Rafa Benitez at Newcastle next season

A romantic return to the Premier League could suit both parties.

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Fernando Torres
Photo: Getty Images

Atletico Madrid striker Fernando Torres announced he would be leaving his boyhood club this summer, and also ruled out a domestic move to another La Liga club.

The experienced Spanish international would be a prudent signing for Newcastle United, where Torres could reunite with Rafa Benitez and serve as a wise mentor to the Magpie’s attackers.

Torres has enjoyed a quietly productive season in Madrid, bagging eight goals in a primarily substitute role. And just this weekend against Levante, the striker rolled back the years with a trademark volleyed goal into the top corner.

Although the Spaniard is 34 years of age, he could nonetheless contribute in meaningful ways for the Magpies. Newcastle lack experience up top and Torres would be a brilliant teacher for the talents of Dwight Gayle and Ayoze Perez.

(Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

In addition, Newcastle simply need depth in attacking positions, with just Perez, Gayle, and Islam Slimani comprising their strike-force. This lack of forward options is due in a large part to the reluctance of Mike Ashley to spend money on transfers, an issue that has annoyed Benitez in the past.

Before Newcastle’s impressive 2-1 win over Arsenal at St. James’ Park this weekend, Benitez again called on Ashley to invest in the squad over the summer.

With the Magpies securing their Premier League status in superb fashion against the Gunners, confidence and optimism is flowing in the Northeast. It seems if there was ever a time for Newcastle’s notoriously stingy owner to splash the cash, it would be this offseason.

Fernando Torres should be top of Rafa Benitez’s wish list, and with the two Spaniards famously enjoying a warm relationship during their time at Liverpool, Torres would take little convincing to make the switch to Newcastle.

ust like his ex-manager, Torres would do well to leave Madrid and take on a project of his own at St. James’ Park this summer.

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Newcastle United

Newcastle United’s Florian Lejeune showing Rafa Benitez was right to take £8.7million risk

The Frenchman has been in fine form for the Magpies since his return from injury.

Jake Jackman

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Photo: Getty Images

Newcastle United have been superb in recent weeks and have climbed to safety after breaking through the 40-point mark.

Their gradual improvement over the course of the season has been great to watch and underlines the quality of their manager, Rafa Benitez.

His squad has often been spoken about as a ‘Championship squad’, but that seems harsh given their position in the Premier League table.

During the summer, Benitez was disappointed by the lack of backing that he received in the transfer window, but the additions that he did make have provided the squad with more quality.

Florian Lejeune signed from Eibar, for £8.7 million, before the season kicked off and there has been a sharp improvement in his performances recently.

The Frenchman missed a couple of months after picking up an injury towards the end of 2017.

He returned to the team against Manchester United in a game that could be considered a turning point of their season.

They started the match in the relegation zone and the three points made the supporters believe that they could climb the league table.

Since that game, the Magpies have taken 13 points from a possible 18 available and managed to move away from danger into a promising position.

(Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)

The reason for their upturn in fortune hasn’t been solely down to Lejeune, but he has more than played his part.

Benitez has established a solid spine and that has been vital in the recent winning form.

Martin Dubravka, Jamaal Lascelles, Lejeune, Jonjo Shelvey, Mohamed Diame and Ayoze Perez have been regular starters down the middle of the pitch.

This group of players give Benitez a good base from which to build on over the coming season.

Defensively, Lejeune has done very well in recent weeks and been a major reason why they have only conceded two goals in their last four matches.

He averages 6.97 clearances, 0.93 tackles and 1.96 interceptions per ninety minutes, while his physicality has allowed him to adapt to the English game.

The Frenchman has won an impressive 60.78% of his aerial duals.

In addition to being an assured defender, Lejeune has managed to impress with his ball-playing ability and that has added another dimension to the Newcastle team.

He has completed 78% of his passes and showed on numerous that he can play threatening long balls over an opposition defence.

The best example of this was his assist for Ayoze Perez last weekend against Leicester.

(during the Premier League match between Newcastle United and Arsenal at St. James Park on April 15, 2018 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England.

It was a perfectly weighted through ball to find the Spaniard and led to the team earning another three points.

Benitez may not have been given the amount of money that he believes is needed to turn Newcastle into the force they can become, but the signing of Lejeune is looking like a successful one.

There were doubts during his first few months in the country, but he has developed into a very good Premier League centre-back and his partnership with Lascelles continues to improve.

The coming summer is going to be huge for the future for the football club and the board must bend over backwards to keep their manager happy.

The success of Lejeune should encourage them to release the funds as Benitez has proven value can be found in the modern market.

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