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Timely Islam Slimani boost could help Newcastle secure safety

The Algerian international joined the club on loan in the January window.

Jake Jackman

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Photo: Getty Images

The transfer business conducted by Newcastle United this season has been patchy at best, with the club seeming to act slowly when bringing in new players.

Rafa Benitez made a striker a priority for the January transfer window.

After some time was spent trying and failing to sign Nicolai Jorgensen from Feyenoord, the Magpies turned their attention to Leicester City striker Islam Slimani.

The Algerian arrived on a loan deal and it appeared to be a great piece of business by the club.

However, in hindsight, the deal doesn’t look as great as the striker has yet to pull on a Newcastle shirt almost two months into his spell with the club.

The 29-year-old has been struggling with a thigh injury and has had to be managed carefully by the coaching staff.

The Chronicle report that he could be ready to make his debut this weekend against Huddersfield Town after featuring for Algeria during the international break.

That is encouraging news for Newcastle as they look to secure their Premier League status for next season.

He is facing a difficult battle to be considered a good signing after missing so much football, but there is no doubting that Slimani will offer quality that has been lacking in the front-line this season.

Their top scorer is Dwight Gayle with five goals and that shows why they are struggling at the bottom end of the table.

Rafa Benitez has made Newcastle difficult to beat, as shown by their defensive record. Alongside Brighton, they have conceded fewer than any other team in the bottom half.

They have a foundation to build on over the coming seasons, but they need to add quality to their attack if they are to progress into a top-half Premier League side.

It remains to be seen whether Slimani has a long-term future at St James’ Park.

That does look unlikely at this stage, but it could be a possibility if he finishes the season with a flourish.

The Algerian international will come into the Newcastle team with a point to prove, not only to those at the club but to the rest of the country after a disappointing time at Leicester City.

Slimani only made 15 Premier League starts for the Foxes and his goal return over that period wasn’t bad, but he will believe he didn’t get a fair chance.

He scored eight times in the league with a goal coming every 190.1 minutes.

Considering he wasn’t given a sustained run in the first-team, his record at the KP Stadium suggests he can do well in this division.

During his time at Sporting, he emerged as a powerful centre-forward who thrived in the air.

He seemed a perfect fit for the English game, but Leicester City may not have been the best team for him.

They are more effective when playing on the counter-attack with quick and skilful players.

That isn’t where Slimani’s strengths lie. He is much better at holding the ball up and looking to cause problems with his aerial threat.

In that sense, Newcastle should be a better fit, as they want a forward that can hold up the ball and bring their more creative midfielders into the game.

Meanwhile, they possess players that can deliver a good cross and have a decent record from set pieces.

Slimani should receive service if he manages to get back to full fitness and break into the team.

Although this signing may be seen as a bad one due to his injury problems, there is still time for Slimani to play a part for Newcastle.

If he does return this weekend, it will provide an injection of quality that previously wasn’t available to Benitez and that can only be a positive thing.

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

Liverpool

£35 million-valued Gianluigi Donnarumma could solve Liverpool’s goalkeeping problem

Josh Kerr

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Gianluigi Donnarumma
Photo: Getty Images

According to reports from Italian outlet Corriere Dello Sport, AC Milan have slashed their asking price for highly-rated Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma.

Liverpool are understood to be interested in the 19-year-old keeper and despite the rejuvenated form of Loris Karius, it is a move that will certainly interest Reds supporters.

The teenage goalkeeper is already being labelled as Buffon’s replacement for the Italian national side and, at such a young age, Donnarumma could have up to 20 years at the pinnacle of European football.

AC Milan had been requesting around £61 million for Donnarumma earlier in the year.

However, Italian newspaper Corriere dello Sport claims the San Siro club have significantly reduced that valuation, with the seven-time European Cup winners willing to settle for £35 million.

Milan are in desperate need to raise funds following a disappointing season in Serie A which saw them once again miss out on Champions League places.

(Photo by AK BijuRaj/Getty Images)

Considering his age and the fact he is already one of the highest rated goalkeepers in European football, the asking price comes at a bargain and Liverpool should undoubtedly swoop.

Loris Karius has improved massively since his return to the first team. However, the German goalkeeper still hasn’t managed to fully convince Reds supporters that he is the club’s long-term first choice keeper.

The addition of Donnarumma could also be beneficial for the 24-year-old keeper knowing if he isn’t meeting the required standard, there is one of Europe’s best keepers ready to take his place.

If Liverpool are to match Manchester City next season, they need to ensure their squad is at full strength. Also, Pep Guardiola’s decision to invest in a new goalkeeper last summer paid dividends and was crucial in them walking the league this season.

Reports regarding Donnarumma’s future come at a perfect time and an ideal price for Liverpool. With Roma’s Allison arguably too expensive, and the world-class Gianluigi Buffon at an age which won’t suit the Reds long-term, Donnarumma could be the perfect addition for Jurgen Klopp this summer.

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Stoke City

Four Stoke City youngsters who Gary Rowett could put his faith in next season

Martyn Cooke

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Gary Rowett
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On Tuesday evening it was announced that Gary Rowett had been appointed as the new manager of Stoke City.

The 44-year-old has been tasked with building a team capable of making an immediate return to the Premier League and his first task will be to overhaul the playing squad during the summer.

Rowett will be handed a sizeable transfer kitty, which will be increased further through player sales, and the Potters will be expected to make a significant impact in the transfer market either side of the World Cup. Stoke supporters will be waiting with eager anticipation to see who their new manager attracts to the club and it is certain that a new-look team will line up for the first game of the season.

However, Stoke have a number of highly rated young players on their books and Rowett may also choose to look within the club’s academy in an attempt to provide some fresh energy and youthful exuberance.

Here, The Boot Room all highlights four young players that Rowett may look to include in his plans for the new season.

(Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

Tom Edwards

Having been born and raised in Stafford, Edwards became the first local player in almost a decade to make a first-team appearance for Stoke when he was handed his debut against Manchester City in October 2017.

The 19-year-old has been at the club since the age of eight and his undoubted potential has been no secret. The defender was voted as the under-18’s Player of the Year in both of the previous two seasons whilst playing a key role in the team’s run to the semi-finals of the FA Youth Cup last year.

Edwards made seven starts for the first team over the Christmas period and emerged as Mark Hughes’ first choice right back. His performances, at a difficult time for the club, were hugely impressive and were characterised by calmness under pressure, robustness in his defensive play and overlapping runs.

The arrival of Paul Lambert in January saw Edwards return to the academy side as the Scotsman elected to place his faith and trust in experience rather than youth.

However, Edwards has already demonstrated that he is capable of playing first team football and he will be hoping that Rowett will reinstate him into first-team proceedings.

(Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Julien Ngoy

The 20-year-old is one of Stoke’s most highly rated young forwards and has been on the periphery of the first team squad for the last two seasons.

He joined the club in the summer of 2014, electing to move to the Bet365 Stadium over a host of top-flight European clubs, and emerged as a dominant force academy football whilst also becoming a central figure for the Belgian young international sides.

Ngoy was handed his debut as a late substitute against Arsenal in December 2016 and made five further appearances over the subsequent twelve months. He spent the second half of the current campaign on loan at League One side Walsall, scoring three goals in thirteen games and helping the Saddlers to avoid relegation.

The Belgian is powerful, strong and pacey whilst also having an acute instinct in front of goal. Having already experienced the Premier League and life as a first-team regular at Walsall, now may be the time for Ngoy to make his breakthrough at Stoke.

Thibaud Verlinden  

Another Belgian youth international, Verlinden joined Stoke in the summer of 2016 having risen through the ranks at Standard Liege.

The 18-year-old is highly thought of at the Bet365 Stadium and his speed, agility and low centre of gravity combined with his technical brilliance makes him one to look out for in the future. Furthermore, the diminutive winger has already been around the periphery of the Stoke first team squad and has been named as a substitute on multiple occasions.

Verlinden has spent the current campaign on loan with FC St. Pauli but has made a minimal impact in Germany and has only made a handful of appearances for the club’s reserve team.

However, the fresh start at Stoke under the stewardship of Rowett may be just what the Belgian needs to kick-start his professional career.

(Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)

Tyrese Campbell

Campbell began his football career with Manchester City’s academy but chose to turn down a professional contract with the club in the summer of 2016 in order to sign for Stoke. The Potters were ultimately ordered to pay £1.75 million for his services by a tribunal.

However, the 18-year-old has been the star of Stoke’s academy structure during the previous two years and, even at this early stage, he appears to be worth every penny of that fee.

Campbell was a prolific for the under-18’s team last season, with his goals firing the side into the semi-finals of the FA Youth Cup, whilst he finished the current campaign as the top goal scorer in Premier League 2. His 18 strikes saw him shortlisted for the Premier League 2 Player of the Season award.

The 18-year-old was handed his first-team debut in February 2018 against Leicester City and subsequently made three further substitute appearances prior to the end of the campaign.

Campbell has emerged as one of the most prolific young forwards in the country and next season may be the perfect opportunity for him to make his mark in first-team football.

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Tottenham Hotspur

How can Victor Wanyama revive his Tottenham career after ruling out exit?

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Photo: Getty Images.

2017/18 was a fairly impressive campaign for Tottenham on and off the field as the side adjusted well to playing at Wembley and secured a third placed finish, but one man who ended the season disappointed was midfielder Victor Wanyama.

The Kenya international played only 24 games, only 12 of those starts, and saw himself relegated to the fringes of the team for much of the campaign, sparking speculation that his future at White Hart Lane may be at threat.

“I don’t respond to rumours and all those are rumours to me, I still have a contract with Spurs and that is what I want to see through,” he told Goal.

“I did not have a good season with the team because of injury and my aim now is to work hard during this break and return for next season even stronger and help them perform even better.

“I am happy at Tottenham and I am committed to the team. I am not aware of anything and I am very fine and happy where I am.”

(Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

The holding midfielder will now focus on rebuilding his fitness and getting back into the team, showing the kind of brilliance that was clear for all to see in fits and bursts such as with his goal of the season finish at Anfield.

There is clearly a role for the 26-year-old to play in Tottenham’s squad and if Moussa Dembele’s future is uncertain, he could be one of those set to benefit the most and will have an automatic spot in the team when fully fit.

Having forced Mauricio Pochettino to reconsider his deployment of Eric Dier, moving the England man into defence or in a two man holding role to fit Wanyama in, it’s clear that the coach is a fan of his former Southampton player.

Building fitness and consistency will be crucial for Wanyama and doing so in time for pre-season could be pivotal. If he can do that and get a strong warm-up and preparation under his belt ready for when his team-mates return from World Cup duty, he can start the season in the team and make a statement of intent early on.

Few doubt Wanyama’s quality and no-one will want to see him depart, even if the likes of Liverpool, Manchester United and Chelsea come calling as Goal suggest, but he will have to repay Tottenham for keeping the faith in him throughout a season of frustration for him and show what he can do on a regular basis.

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