January transfer plans are already underway at Newcastle United, according to Steve Bruce.
The head coach has been speaking to the local press about potential budgets and targets and, without giving too much away, he’s emphasised the need for ‘real quality’, suggesting he’ll be looking to sign ‘one or two’ this winter.
When asked about the upcoming window, Bruce said the following:
“Over the past week we’ve been taking stock of the last 7 weeks.
“We’ve been looking at getting injured players fit but in the next couple of weeks we’ll look ahead to January, sit down with Steve (Nickson) to try & identify some real quality who can make us better”
Indeed it was impossible to expect Bruce to know his strongest team, or what additions the squad needed considering how little time he had pre-season.
The players signed in the summer were clearly players the club had lined up – not Steve Bruce – with Andy Carroll maybe being the only exception.
Bruce then goes on to outline the kind of additions the club will target, with the emphasis seemingly being very much on quality not quantity.
“You see the difference in an Almiron or a Joelinton. That little bit of extra quality which comes in is hopefully what we’re looking for now.
“We’ve got a nucleus of a very good squad. Rather than five or six (signings), maybe it’s important to go for one or two. I think that’s the way forward. We’ve got good players here. If we can just keep adding to the quality of them, then I think that’s the way forward.”
Hard to argue with Bruce on this, but it will be every interesting to see what positions the club’s hierarchy feel they need to strengthen, and indeed if Bruce agrees with their targets.
The centre back positions have ample bodies and quality, up there with the strongest I’ve seen in my time as a fan. We seem pretty well stocked for goalkeepers and wing backs too, with Krafth and Willems arriving over the summer. The defensive central midfield area is a potential area of concern, as we are only an Issac Hayden injury away from a major problem there.
Wingers / versatile attackers is certainly an area they might look at. Almiron, Saint Maximin and Atsu remain the only options there, and if you play two, only having three is risky, especially given Saint Maximin’s recent hamstring problems.
Of course Matt Ritchie can move up field, but he has been reborn since moving to left wing back, and maybe lacks the pace to fit into the current system. Muto is another who has played there in the past, but he seems better suited to a central role behind the main striker.
Then onto centre forwards. Having Joelinton, Gayle and Carroll all fully fit would be fantastic. Personally I still think Gayle has something to offer at this level and believe the current system would suit him more than it did in 2017/18, when he selflessly plowed a lone furrow up in a 4-4-1-1. The problem is of course, the eternal concern about the fitness of Gayle and Carroll. It’s incredibly risky to have to rely on them for a season.
January has been a crucial month in the last two seasons for Newcastle. Slimani and Barreca turned out to be real flops, but Dubravka and Kenedy transformed the team in 2017/18, with Almiron transforming the team earlier this year.
Here’s hoping for more of the same.