With Rafa Benitez’s future up in the air for weeks on end and Steve Bruce arriving late as a result, our summer business was conducted over a frantic two week period between late July and early August.
- Joelinton – £40m from Hoffenheim
- Jetro Willems – Loan from Frankfurt
- Allan Saint-Maximin – £16m from OGC Nice
- Emil Krafth – £5m from Amiens
- Andy Carroll – Free from West Ham
Now all of the five NUFC new boys have had a few months to settle in at St James’ Park, here’s how I’d rank their performances so far:
1. Jetro Willems
He arrived on loan after an underwhelming spell at Frankfurt, yet he’s looked the part at Premier League level and has stepped up brilliantly in Matt Ritchie’s absence over the past few months.
He’s skilful, confident on the ball, is two footed and good going forward, however I’ve also been pleasantly surprised by some of his defensive work so far.
He’s clearly a more forward thinking full-back, but he’s competed well, stuck to his task and not switched off as much as I feared he would after hearing some unconvincing reviews about his ability defensively from German journalists who’d seen plenty of him at Frankfurt.
He scored an absolute thunderbolt to give us an early lead at Anfield, set up Muto’s strike against Leicester in the Carabao Cup and played a key role in Matty Longstaff’s debut winner against Man Utd, with his skill and perfectly weighted cut back showing his ability to produce in the final third.
If he keeps up this form he’ll be difficult to drop when Ritchie returns, and will surely earn a permanent deal should we stay up.
2. Allan Saint-Maximin
After a blistering cameo in our final pre-season against Saint Etienne, the Frenchman’s start to life at St James Park was initially blighted by a niggling hamstring injury he struggled to shake off.
He’s since returned to full fitness and has been a constant threat whenever we’ve seen him, with his pace, impressive dribbling and fearlessness on the ball giving us that spark our side has so often lacked.
He’s yet to deliver a goal or an assist and clearly isn’t the finished article when you look at some of his decision making and final product, however he takes on men at will and is brilliant at carrying the ball into the final third, with his dribble success rate one of the highest in Europe this season.
He dazzled in our 1-0 win over Man Utd, running rings around Diogo Dalot all afternoon, was our biggest threat in the narrow defeat at Chelsea a few weeks ago and again looked our most likely player to make something happen from nothing in the 1-1 draw with Wolves last time out.
In a team that’s sorely lacking in match winning ability, his Hatem Ben Arfa-esque spark to create something from nothing and get fans off their seats feels like it could be key if we’re to stay up this season.
Ranking the Brazilian third out of five may seem generous given his recent struggles and heavy criticism from several Newcastle fans as a result, but I really do feel like it’s been a thankless task for him so far.
He’s young, is still learning the language and adapting to Premier League football, yet he’s been given absolutely no support in a system that is leaving him visibly frustrated. He must be the most isolated forward in the top flight, all while he’s attempting to play in a new role, with him rarely ever played as a lone striker during his time at Hoffenheim – a team that played front foot football, not hoof ball.
It’s only right to say that he hasn’t done enough at times, with him sometimes letting his frustrations get the better of him, however his all round display in that huge 1-0 win at Spurs was outstanding and proof that there’s a real player there. He bullied their centre backs, linked up well, ran himself into the ground and took his goal well, but chances and impressive displays since then have been few and far between.
He needs to up his game and improve his basics, with him looking a shadow of the ‘£40m player’ we thought we were signing in recent weeks, however I’m confident he’ll come good IF Bruce makes some much needed tweaks and learns to play to his strengths.
He may be big but he’s a different player to Rondon, and Bruce needs to realise that. Few strikers can look good when starved of service, so let’s hope he gets that before he’s written off too early as an expensive flop.
4. Andy Carroll
The big man made an emotional return to Tyneside on deadline day, signing up on an incentive-based pay as you play deal.
Since then he’s stayed fit longer than some may have expected and has been a handful in some of his cameo appearances at St James’ Park, however he’s now set to miss a week or two with a new groin injury and hasn’t been deemed fit enough to start as of yet this season.
He’s a useful addition both on and off the pitch and can cause havoc when he comes on, but it would be nice if he was fit enough to start soon given how badly Joelinton needs support and a senior figure to learn from up top.
That said, our approach may need to if we want to get the best out of a player like Carroll, with our current low block and counter attacking style hardly suiting a player who wants to be in and around the box and attacking crosses. I look at football fixtures today and do wonder how an injury-prone, ageing and one dimensional fits in if we can’t play on the front foot and to his strengths.
I’m happy to have him and think he will chip in on and off the pitch, but feel Bruce’s plan B to bring Carroll on and hoist hopeful balls in his direction has been pretty desperate so far, especially when we’ve rarely been high enough up the pitch to get good service into the 6ft 4′ striker.
5. Emil Krafth
The Swedish international arrived as a relative unknown from France over the summer and appeared to be Bruce’s first choice right-back to begin with, however that’s soon changed.
He looks to have a good engine on him, he gets stuck in and doesn’t seem the worst defender in the world, but he just doesn’t look like a natural wing-back. He struggled in our 3-1 defeat to Norwich on the second weekend of the season, he’s missed a few huge chances to score on the rare occasion he’s got forward and has made a few costly mistakes at the back.
He’s looked reasonably solid at times, but doesn’t appear to possess the pace, power or ability on the ball to really work as a wing-back, meaning DeAndre Yedlin has immediately come back into the side following his return to full fitness.
We’re now being linked with a January loan move for Chelsea right wing-back Reece James, making you wonder if Bruce is already having doubts about Krafth. He could turn out to be a steady squad player, but the early signs haven’t been particularity inspiring.
How would you rank our five summer signings so far?