With the season drawing to a close and Newcastle close to reaching their goal of promotion, albeit by stumbling over the line, now is a good time to analyse the signings we made last summer. With most of the Championship declaring we tried to ‘buy the league’ (they forget we had a net spend of -£30m), who has been a success and who hasn’t?
Matz Sels, £5.6m – Flop
The Belgian Stopper came in with good pedigree, fresh from a successful season in the Belgian top flight with KAA Gent. He was quickly instilled as Newcastle’s number 1 keeper by Rafa but despite keeping a good few number of clean sheets, was dropped for Karl Darlow. Watching him I always felt an error was imminent. He has not won his place back since his fate was sealed with a crucial error that cost us three points down at Villa Park earlier in the season. Sels is poor in the air and looks to lack the commanding presence needed for the English game. Considering the outlay and his poor displays, he has been a big flop.
Daryl Murphy, £3m – Success
With each signing, it is important to consider the role they were signed for. Murphy was brought in as a backup striker, who has experience of the Championship and could offer us a different option over a long season. A return of 6 goals, 5 being in the league, from a handful of starts has been impressive. Certainly one that if he stays will not be a key player moving forward but he has done a good job this season and has delivered on the role we expected from him.
DeAndre Yedlin £5m- Success
Signed from Spurs after a loan spell at that team down the road. Yedlin has worked hard to usurp Anita from the right back slot and offers a good offensive threat, providing a good combination on that flank with Ritchie. With pace to burn, he is a big asset but needs to continue to work on the defensive side of his game. Has played at a higher level already and has proved a good signing.
Jesus Gamez, free transfer – Flop
We had high hopes for the former Atletico Madrid fullback and it looked quite a coup to attract a defender who was playing Champions league football. Gamez has had a nightmare with injuries and has barely featured. Being 32 already, it is difficult to see a future for him on Tyneside, despite his professional attitude off the pitch. An unnecessary signing.
Ciaran Clark, £5.1m – Success
Arrived to a lot of pessimism (myself included) after playing regularly in one of the worst ever Premier League teams last season, as Aston Villa capitulated. Initially couldn’t get into the team and appeared to be a squad player, but after winning a place in the XI from Chancel Mbemba, has not looked back. Has arguably been our defender of the season. Cultured on the ball, a threat from set plays and not afraid to put his head where it hurts, he has quickly become a fan favourite. Like others, it will be fascinating to see if he can keep this form up if we go up but this season, he has been a shrewd acquisition.
Achraf Lazaar, £3m – Flop
A real mystery this one. Lazaar was seen as an upgrade on much maligned left back Paul Dummett and was again highly rated on the continent, claiming to have spurned approaches from Fiorentina to join the Magpies. Dummett kept his place at the start of the season as Rafa claimed Lazaar was building fitness but has failed to play since, barring a few cup appearances. Perhaps not up to scratch, not suited to English football or just not fancied by Rafa; whatever the reason, a signing that has not worked out.
Christian Atsu (Loan) – More to prove
A good assist at Ipswich showed his good attributes – electric pace and a tricky winger capable of causing problems. However, he doesn’t do this enough. At 24, he has had numerous loan spells with different clubs so he clearly isn’t consistent enough for a move to stick. Has scored some good goals, such as a screamer at Rotherham, but doubts remain. Hasn’t been able to keep Gouffran out of the side and it feels like it’s in the balance as to whether we sign him permanently.
Matt Ritchie, £12m – Success
Our player of the season and a resounding success. Eyebrows were raised when the Scottish international swapped Premiership football for another assault on the Championship. He has often been man marked and doubled up on due to a lack of threat from the other flank but has chipped in with 11 goals and 7 assists. Has also become a fan favourite with a great attitude, work rate and scoring some key goals. He has been invaluable to us this season.
Dwight Gayle, £10m – Success
Like Ritchie, has proved to be a fantastic bit of business from Newcastle. It seemed a bit of gamble on a striker who was in and out of the Crystal Palace side. However, 22 goals later and Gayle is on the verge of firing us back into the big time. Struggled with injuries in the second half of the season and it will be interesting to see if he can make the difficult leap to consistent Premier League goalscorer, but this season, he has been fantastic. Who knows how far down the table we would be without his goals.
Mohamed Diame, £4.5m – More to prove
Like Clark, United took advantage of a contract release clause to get him to SJP. Signed as a replacement for Moussa Sissoko, the powerful midfielder had Championship experience, having just scoring the winner in the play off final for Hull. Deployed by Rafa predominantly as a number 10, he has showed glimpses of promise but has been underwhelming. Goes missing in games and a return of 3 league goals isn’t enough. He has, however, looked better in a deeper role alongside Shelvey recently and has proved it at Premier League level before with Wigan. Needs to improve next season if still in the side, though you have to feel Rafa will want more quality in this area of the field.
Grant Hanley, £5.5m – More to prove
Rafa fought hard all summer to bring the Blackburn Rovers captain to Tyneside. Their player of the season two years in a row, young at 24 and a full Scotland international, you could see the logic behind the signing. It also meant we were in a refreshing position of having four centre halves for a season for once. However, unlike Clark, has not really taken his chance. When called upon he has been solid but it’s difficult to see a long term future for him at NUFC in the starting XI, especially if he can’t win a place in the team in the Championship. Quite a large fee was paid and although a steady player, I expect him to remain a squad player or move on this summer.
Isaac Hayden, £2.5m – Success
Like Diame, Hayden had been a part of the Hull City side that won promotion, having been on loan from Arsenal. He played mainly at centre half for them but from pre-season with Newcastle, it was clear Rafa saw him as a holding midfielder and a good foil for Shelvey. Has been impressive if not spectacular, a player who’s impact who you tend to notice more when he is not playing. Has been a far better option than Colback this season and at just 22 can improve. Will be around next season either as a starter of a good squad player, depending on our recruitment of course.
Newcastle’s summer activity has been a real mixed bag but after signing so many players, it is normal that not all of them work out. Our goal has always been promotion and if we go onto achieve this, our signings have been exactly what we needed to get us out of the Championship. Our two most expensive signings have been huge successes and it is nice to see Rafa trying to create a British core to the team.
Significant investment is clearly needed this summer and not all of the signings of last summer will remain, but Rafa managed to build a squad capable of getting us into the promotion mix, whilst making a healthy profit last summer.