The start of the new season of Premier League football is an exciting one for fans of Newcastle United, as their club has regained its place in the top tier, following the trauma of relegation a couple of seasons ago. Excitement and expectations are high among the support, under the leadership of manager Rafael Benitez, but can the Mapgies deliver on that or will they struggle to satisfy their passionate fan base?
Despite the odd stumble along the way, last season’s Championship campaign was mostly smooth sailing for Newcastle – which has helped to raise the expectation levels among supporters. However, as Benitez has already acknowledged, the Premier League is a much higher level and he has repeatedly stated that the squad will need to be strengthened to cope with it. In particular the Spaniard has indicated that signing a striker to support Dwight Gayle up front is something he is keen to do before the transfer window slams shut and the pre-season matches have shown that Newcastle can be a little toothless in attack without him.
The club has made signings during the summer, including the French central defender Florian Lejeune, right back Javier Manquillo and wingers Christian Atsu and Jacob Murphy. The additions of Lejeune and Manquillo should certainly upgrade Newcastle’s defence for the rigours of the Premier League, while Murphy and Atsu will provide greater pace and width, but the club still looks short in terms of attacking options. They have been strongly linked with a move for the Arsenal striker Lucas Perez, with Benitez openly admitting that he is a player he would like to sign, and securing a proven top level striker is clearly an urgent priority between now and the end of the transfer window. The problem Benitez faces is that, while the other two promoted teams are only expected to fight for Premier League survival this season that is seen as the absolute bare minimum requirement for Newcastle.
With previous experience at this level and a higher transfer budget than the other two sides that came up, Newcastle are expected to establish themselves comfortably in the league this season. Benitez has already been warning that unless he is backed in the transfer market he will struggle to meet the demands of the club’s supporters, but there is time yet for this to happen. An encouraging sign for the fans is that new players like Murphy seem excited rather than pressured by the expectation He was an effective performer at Norwich, but St James Park is a bigger stage, and it is a good sign that this does not appear to intimidate him. Newcastle are rated 1/5 by bookmakers to stay up this season, and 9/2 to be relegated, but if they manage their recruitment carefully during the remainder of the transfer window they should not be worrying about relegation.
The key to Newcastle’s chances of a good season lies in their being able to bring in a good striker and it seems likely that this issue will be addressed before the window shuts.