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Newcastle round-up: Liverpool midfielder targeted; Ligue 1 attacker on radar; Pochettino discusses opening day weekend

Jake Jackman



Newcastle United have asked about the availability of Lucas Leiva as they look to add experience and quality to their squad ahead of their return to the Premier League. The Northern Echo report that Rafa Benitez is keen to add a couple of midfielders and has identified the Liverpool player as one of the men that he would like to bring to St James’ Park. The Brazilian was given his debut for the Reds by the current Magpies’ boss and a reunion could benefit both men.

Given he is no longer a regular in the Liverpool first team, this is a move that makes a lot of sense and it would represent good business for Newcastle. They would be getting an experienced Premier League midfielder, who would be a good influence on the dressing room for a reasonable fee. Benitez will want to bring in players that he believes can be trusted and suit his system. Lucas certainly fits that description and this is a possible transfer to keep an eye on.

Another player that is being linked to Newcastle is Nicolas Pepe. The Independent report that the Magpies and Watford are both interested in the Angers’ forward, who impressed in the most recent campaign. The French club aren’t going to be willing sellers and they will dig their heels in when it comes to a price, as they know the value that the Ivorian possesses. The report goes on to state that £15 million could be enough to secure a deal for the 22-year-old.

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Newcastle are going to face a difficult task to find value in the transfer market, but they will be looking across the world for players that they believe can thrive in the Premier League. Pepe would be a risky, but exciting signing, as he has been very impressive in France. He is excellent at running with the ball, as he causes defenders nightmares with his pace and trickery. If he was signed, he would need to be given time to settle in, but the potential upside is huge.

Finally, Newcastle are going to host Tottenham on the opening day of the new season and there is a backstory to the fixture, after the Magpies beat the North London side 5-1 on the final day of the 2015/16 campaign. That loss meant that Spurs finished below Arsenal and Mauricio Pochettino will use that game to motivate his players in August. The Chronicle report the following quotes from the Argentine:

“Newcastle is another motivation for us. The way that we finished the season before last is not too important now but we’ll have that in our mind to motivate us and we’ll try to win.

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“Next season will be exciting and to start at St James’ Park will be very motivating for us.”

It is one of the most interesting fixtures that will be played on the opening weekend and it will be one that both sides will believe they can win. Pochettino talks about how the last meeting of the two clubs will motivate his players, but he will recognise the problems that Newcastle will pose, especially on the first weekend of the season.

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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.

English Premier League

Will Newcastle United finally give Adam Armstrong his chance next season?

Adam Armstrong is currently in great form on loan at Blackburn Rovers.



Photo: Getty Images

Earlier this month, Blackburn Rovers forward Adam Armstrong was handed the League One Player of the Month award for February.

The England youth international, on loan from Newcastle United, thoroughly deserved the award, scoring four goals and bagging one assist in the same month he turned 21.

It was exactly the spell he needed to remind Toon supporters just how talented he is.

Armstrong, whose current record with Blackburn is seven goals in 12 games, was once considered the club’s most precocious talent.

(Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)

It is now four years since Armstrong became the club’s second youngest player in Premier League history, when he replaced Luuk de Jong against Fulham.

However, the then 17-year-old has not progressed how he would have wanted at his parent club

Despite scoring 20 goals in 40 games for Coventry City in League One, back in 2015-16, he struggled to at subsequent loan spells with Barnsley and Bolton Wanderers.

Now, however, he looks back to his best. So should Newcastle finally pull the trigger on the striker next season?

Armstrong, who helped England to the FIFA Under-20 World Cup crown, is now 21 years of age and chomping at the bit to get first-team action at St James Park.

Newcastle United fans would love to see Armstrong feature in the first team. After all, the youngster is one of their own and clearly an immense talent.

If given the chance, and some playing time, he could hopefully translate his form with Blackburn to St James’ Park next season.

(Photo by Pete Norton/Getty Images)

Not many youngsters have come through the ranks at Newcastle recently and Armstrong was always expected to be the next big star out the academy.

Hopefully, his excellent half of the season at Blackburn ends in promotion and further opportunities at the club he has supported since he was a little boy.

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English Premier League

Victor Fernandez furthers Newcastle United first-team claims on Spain tour

The 19-year-old impressed as he featured against Belgian outfit Royal Antwerp.

Jake Jackman



Photo: Getty Images

Newcastle United recently travelled to Spain for a training camp as they attempted to deal with three weeks without a competitive fixture.

Rafa Benitez is an experienced manager and he will have realised the danger that such a gap could pose for his team, especially when it came to the fitness of the squad.

He arranged a training camp in his homeland, which culminated in a unique 135-minute match against Belgian side Royal Antwerp.

It consisted of three periods of 45-minutes, which allowed the manager to give playing time to the fringe players in his squad ahead of the run-in.

Although it gave the opportunity to experiment, only two youth players made the trip to Spain.

Nathan Harker was the back-up goalkeeper as both Rob Elliot and Karl Darlow were struggling with injuries.

The other, Victor Fernandez, caught the eye of Newcastle supporters watching.

Fernandez will be encouraged about further involvement with the first-team, as he was the only young outfield player to feature against Royal Antwerp.

(Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)

That is a sign that Benitez considers the 19-year-old as one of the best prospects currently with the club.

The Spaniard joined the club just over a year ago from UE Cornella.

The signing went under the radar, but Benitez has an extensive scouting network and he obviously saw something in Fernandez.

Although he is predominantly a winger, he can play anywhere across the front-line is required.

Soon after joining the club, he spoke of not wanting to aim for too much too early when talking to the Newcastle United official club website:

“My purpose was not to make an impact really quickly, because I’m new and I have to get used to English football – it’s really different from Spain. I hope, little by little, I can keep doing good things here.”

Considering this was very quickly after his move to a new country, Fernandez’s words show maturity and show a glimpse into his character.

Benitez is a thorough manager who likes to know everything about the players that he brings to a football club.

There must have been something about the Spanish winger that made the Newcastle manager believe that he could adapt to English football.

There are no guarantees in football when it comes to young players fulfilling their potential.

(Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

However, the fact that Fernandez was taken on the mid-season tour to Spain suggests that he is on the right path.

He would have been offered guarantees about a route to the first-team squad and his involvement against Royal Antwerp will have been a reward for his progression since moving to St James’ Park.

He came on for the final 45-minutes and showed flashes of his ability.

There was some nice interplay with Dwight Gayle that resulted in the teenager having a shot on goal.

His trickery and direct style caused problems for his marker and he continued to excite those watching when the ball was his feet.

There is more developing for him to do before he is ready for the first-team in competitive action, but his performance against Antwerp was a positive one.

There is clearly talent there and he will be a player to follow over the coming seasons.

Newcastle are at the early stage of their development under Rafa Benitez and that will mean opportunities are there for young players.

Fernandez could have the ability to take his.

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English Premier League

Paul Dummett’s Wales snub will please Newcastle United fans

The Welshman turned down an international call-up this week.

Jake Jackman



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Paul Dummett has been one of the standout players for Newcastle United this season and his performances haven’t passed Ryan Giggs by.

The new Wales National Team manager has admitted that he has spoken to the left-back with a view to a return to the squad. The Chronicle reported the following quotes:

“I had a conversation with Paul Dummett, because he hasn’t been in the last few squads, and he just felt that it wasn’t the right time to come back.

“He wanted to concentrate on his Newcastle career which I have to respect, and we move on.

“He (Dummett) said that he wanted to concentrate on Newcastle’s relegation fight so I have to respect that at the moment. In the future we will wait and see.”

That will be music to the ears of Newcastle supporters and Rafa Benitez, as Dummett has emerged as a key player for the team since his return from injury.

This season in the Premier League, the Magpies have conceded only 13 times in the 12 matches that the 26-year-old has started.

(Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)

That underlines how effective he has been and his importance to the team’s chances of staying in the top-flight.

Although he may not be the most exciting player to watch, Dummett is very good at carrying out a role for the team and it is no surprise that he has become one of Benitez’s most trusted lieutenants.

The Spanish manager enjoys to coach players that listen and carry out his instructions to the letter and his left-back certainly fits under that description.

A quick look at the stats shows how rounded Dummett is as a defender.

He averages 2.83 ball recoveries, 0.78 blocks and 6.85 clearances per ninety minutes. Meanwhile, he is very good in the air as shown by his aerial duels win rate of 57.41%.

He was once a scapegoat for Newcastle supporters and the focus of anger when things weren’t going well. The reason for that was his lack of technical skill, which would make him stand out on the pitch.

However, that side of his game has developed and he is now serviceable in possession. Dummett isn’t going to be cutting sides open with his attacking threat down the left, but he understands his own limitations and that has seen him improve as a player.

The 26-year-old has been part of Wales squads in the past, but he has only played once for his country and his lack of game-time may be a reason why he stepped away from the international arena.

(Photo by Lindsey Parnaby/Getty Images)

Last summer, Newcastle issued a statement to explain why Dummett withdrew from the squad for the World Cup qualifier against Serbia, which featured the following quote:

“After a gruelling campaign with the Magpies, in which he played through the pain barrier on several occasions, 25-year-old Dummett is keen to recharge his batteries and spend time with his family and friends in order to ensure he is at peak form and fitness for his hometown team’s return to the Premier League and what promises to be a big campaign for both him and the club.

“He has been supported in his decision by Newcastle boss Rafa Benítez. 

“However, Dummett – who has represented his country from youth level all the way to the senior team – has not closed the door on his international career and hopes to represent the Dragons again in the future.”

It is clear that Newcastle is the priority for Dummett, but it is interesting that he refused to close the door on Wales last summer.

A managerial change since then may lead to further opportunities for the left-back and it is easy to see why Giggs has already reached out to him.

The Newcastle full-back has developed into a Premier League calibre player under Benitez and he will offer an upgrade on the options currently in the Wales squad.

For him, as a player, it may be beneficial to play international football and gain experience at the highest level. Although he didn’t agree to come back at this time, it would be a surprise if he doesn’t return to the fold in the near future. Both parties would benefit from that.

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