After Newcastle went down to the Championship last summer, Rafael Benitez oversaw a complete overhaul of the squad that saw him sign 12 players in the summer. He strived to make his mark on the team, selling on Moussa Sissoko and Georginio Wijnaldum for big money amongst others. With the £90.77m received, Benitez built a squad that would compete for the Championship but whose core would also acclimatize well enough to the Premier League in the following season.
That was the hope. Benitez delivered on his promotion mandate, and this summer was meant to be the first step towards securing Newcastle’s future in the top flight. But the Spaniard has been left dissatisfied with the lack of relative funds, in part due to the size of wage bill, which means players need to be moved out – but all is not doom and gloom. After all, Newcastle are a promoted side, which means the allure they once had to players will take some time to come. Players want stability, and that is still finding its feet in Newcastle.
Benitez has still spent nearly £40 million this window though, with the Magpies staying in the Premier League initially listed among the risk-free bets from bigfreebet.com. But none of the six signings have the air of a gamechanger. Jacob Murphy, the most expensive buy so far, is the most exciting, yet is a buy that is based mainly on potential. The 22-year old winger from Norwich has the potential to captivate audiences once he finds his feet.
Florian Lejuene, the 26-year old defender, was an astute capture from Eibar, given his impressive performances in the La Liga last season. He certainly adds experience and quality to the Newcastle defence that may not have enough quality for the top flight. Mikel Merino, a peace offering to Benitez, is another smart purchase, especially on a loan with option to buy. The ball-playing midfielder was not given the chance to shine at Dortmund but is highly rated around Europe and should be afforded the opportunity to display his skills.
But the three other buys are hardly enthusing: Christian Atsu was on loan last season, so he is no new face. Javier Manquillo hardly showed enough at Liverpool or Sunderland to suggest he can be anything more than a depth signing, given his versatility on both flanks. Joselu, despite his debut goal, has never had a 10+ goal season in his career and was underwhelming at Stoke. That explains Newcastle’s need for a new striker that can provide the goals to keep the club in the Premier League.
The departures of Siem de Jong, Riviere, Daryl Murphy, Gouffran and Anita amongst others helped to clear out the deadwood in the squad, while Hanley, Colback and Lazaar are all expected to leave. That should clear up room for a couple more additions. Dwight Gayle’s heroics last season suggest that his level is in the Championship, which is why he may be ushered towards the exit. The club still need a left-back, an attacking midfielder and a forward- it looks like Kenedy will solve the first problem. But with only two days left in the transfer window, it’s crunch time for Benitez, Mike Ashley and Newcastle. It’s time to deliver.