Have Newcastle’s summer signings proved fit for purpose?

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. 

Verdict

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.

(Fancy having your say? Send any articles/ideas over to us at [email protected] & we’ll get back to you!)

About Simon Riddlesden

Lifelong Newcastle United fan and East Stand season ticket holder. Observations from a supporter who has followed NUFC during Champions League participation and through relegation, taking me from Milan to Scunthorpe.

14 thoughts on “Have Newcastle’s summer signings proved fit for purpose?

  1. good read Olly. I would agree with most apart from Hayden – more to prove: although he does look likely to be decent
    Atsu – flop. would like to see him do well but looks too lightweight and is poor at tracking / defending

    Diame – flop. a better version of Amady faye 😀 not sure what he brings. looks strong but looks all at sea most of the time.

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  2. Good article Simon and I pretty much agree with all that you write. Not too many will make the step up to the premiership.. Clark, Ritchie, Yedlin, maybe Gayle, and Hayden.

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  3. Good read Simon , thank you.
    Would agree mostly with all you say but I prefer Anita to Yedlin mainly because I’m a bit old fashioned in that I like my defenders to defend first and foremost . Yedlin like Debuchy and Janmaat before him has pace to burn and gets forward a treat but his defending leaves a lot to be desired. He was awful on Monday night which is such a shame as had the perfect chance to steal that spot from Anita. Anita showed on Friday v Leeds and on many occasions previously that he is more than capable of good forward runs when he is in the position to do so but he never neglects his defensive duties. I do like Yedlin very much but there is a lot of work in progress there for me at the moment.
    Hayden has been really good and we missed him when injured, likewise Clark has been a revelation, who would of thought the much maligned defender from Villa would turn out to actually be pretty good. Their loss as they say.
    Also Murphy has stepped up really well and you can tell he knows the championship like the back of his hand. Not so impressed by Atsu if I’m honest and Diame for me a major let down so far. Jesus has had a mare with injuries so hard to really comment on him and Hanley not had much game time either. Ritchie is a massive player for us, great signing and my Player of the season by a country mile. Gayle’s goals have been immense for us and he was having a great season up to them bloody hamstrings poor sod. I still love Mitro and so want him to come good, his lay offs and hold up play is really very good, doesn’t get enough credit at times , he does need to score more though. Likewise I still like Goofy and hope he gets another year with us if only as a squad player.
    Lazaar who ? is that the new Dr Who villain 😉
    Darlows been solid enough and Shelvey too though can blow hot and cold at times but Lascelles needs to talk less and stop ball watching for me. Dummett , steady and hardworking and as for poor Jack, he must wish he stayed at the scum for all the love he gets. He has to stop giving away such poor free kicks and getting ridiculously early yellows.

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  4. Most of these players were not big risks considering the price tags and as Simon said were bought to get us promoted. We were never going to get the majority of the players from PL teams because even relative minnows like Watford and Bournemouth can compete on wages now because of TV money. We should be able to get most of our money back on players who are deemed surplus to requirements – Hanley, Diame, Sels.

    When you look at the cost of our “flops” they add up to about one Jordan Ibe and half a Moussa Sissoko.

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  5. Sels has said he wants to go out on loan and there are plenty of Championship clubs that would want him, where he could learn not to flap and restore his reputation. Rob Green is still playing FFS.

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  6. kimtoon:
    Good read Simon , thank you.
    Would agree mostly with all you say but I prefer Anita to Yedlin mainly because I’m a bit old fashioned in that I like my defenders to defend first and foremost . Yedlin like Debuchy and Janmaat before him has pace to burn and gets forward a treat but his defending leaves a lot to be desired. He was awful on Monday night which is such a shame as had the perfect chance to steal that spot from Anita. Anita showed on Friday v Leeds and on many occasions previously that he is more than capable of good forward runs when he is in the position to do so but he never neglects his defensive duties. I do like Yedlin very much but there is a lot of work in progress there for me at the moment.
    Hayden has been really good and we missed him when injured, likewise Clark has been a revelation, who would of thought the much maligned defender from Villa would turn out to actually be pretty good. Their loss as they say.
    Also Murphy has stepped up really well and you can tell he knows the championship like the back of his hand. Not so impressed by Atsu if I’m honest and Diame for me a major let down so far. Jesus has had a mare with injuries so hard to really comment on him and Hanley not had much game time either. Ritchie is a massive player for us, great signing and my Player of the season by a country mile. Gayle’s goals have been immense for us and he was having a great season up to them bloody hamstrings poor sod. I still love Mitro and so want him to come good, his lay offs and hold up play is really very good, doesn’t get enough credit at times , he does need to score more though.Likewise I still like Goofy and hope he gets another year with us if only as a squad player.
    Lazaar who ? is that the new Dr Who villain😉
    Darlows been solid enough and Shelvey too though can blow hot and cold at times but Lascelles needs to talk less and stop ball watching for me. Dummett , steady and hardworking and as for poor Jack, he must wish he stayed at the scum for all the love he gets. He has to stop giving away such poor free kicks and getting ridiculously early yellows.

    Kim. I agree with so many of your comments I couldn’t add anymore.

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  7. Decent analysis Simon. However, I’d be a bit harder on some of them.
    Sels is crap, Diame’s no better and has been a major disappointment. Hanley, Lazaar, Gamez I’d get rid asap. 7 out of ten decent Rafa.

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  8. Good read. I see Hayden as a great signing. Dominant in the air and great engine. Shame he has picked up a niggle or two but far better than anyone else in that position and its very noticeable when he has not played. I don’t think he had anything to prove, except trying to stay niggle free and get a real run of games in.

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  9. Olly: I totally disagree with you on Barton. He is a prick. He had more than a “bad boy” image, he was, and is, a despicable character. 20 minutes at a terminally ill persons death bed will not change that. He took his pay from NUFC when he was in jail for 6 months. Maybe he should give some of that million pounds that he got to cancer research? Him and his Agent were looking at legal remedies if NUFC decided to cut his wages whilst he was in jail for a civil offense.

    Terrible article about a terrible and self serving person !!!!!!!!

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  10. Agree Barton is a nasty bloke. Stubbing a cigar out in an academy players face for example… That’s not a mistake. Its an act of a proper wrong’un.

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  11. Fair enough lads, his faults outweigh all else but I was merely tipping my hat to him for what was a very decent thing to do. As I say, I feel there’s a decent bloke in him deep down, but yes he often does left himself down. So I can’t defend him much more than that really.

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