Mike Ashley has incredibly clawed back some credit with many Newcastle fans after a superb few days in the transfer market and an ongoing commitment to securing a takeover with the Amanda Staveley-led consortium.
The widely ill-liked Ashley has sanctioned excellent moves for welcome additions before the season kicks off this weekend. The arrivals of Wilson, Fraser and Lewis add much needed quality to three key areas of the first eleven and Bruce will be delighted that three players with Premier League experience have been signed.
The feat of completing these moves should not be underestimated by the way. Newcastle have fought off significant interest for all three of these players and deserve enormous credit for bringing them in. They are made even more impressive by the fact that they have been sanctioned whilst the squad is hugely oversized. Newcastle are now paying wages to several players who simply cannot fit into a 25 man squad, and having been made available for transfer, still remain at St. James’ Park.
Despite the impressive new additions to the first team squad, Bruce will still feel there is improvements to be made if he can take the club forwards.
He will be acutely aware of the recruitment drives of Everton, Wolves and indeed, newly promoted Leeds United. The top six almost sort themselves out with Liverpool, Man City, Chelsea, Man Utd, Arsenal and Spurs being very difficult to displace. Then come the likes of Wolves, Everton, Sheffield Utd and Leicester all looking pretty strong. Crystal Palace continue to strengthen, and Burnley will add to their squad before the end of the window. So, Bruce still has his work cut out to take this Newcastle side up the table in what is an extremely competitive division. But fans will feel decidedly more confident now than they did this time last week after some great work.
Further permanent additions are unlikely after the recent spending spree unless Bruce can generate some cash by selling some of the players he deems surplus to requirements. Matt Ritchie, not falling into this category, may still leave the club for the south coast for family reasons and there are many other players Bruce will be willing to cash in on. Lazaar, Aarons, Lejeune, Schar, Yedlin, Saivet, Atsu and Muto all come to mind, and that’s a lot of wages and players out of Bruce’s first-team plans.
Indeed, there is a huge clearance sale on at the club in order to free up squad places for possible future additions, most probably, on loan. But where does he want to add some more quality?
He is rumoured to be in the market for a defender and another striker. The defender issue is interesting. With Dummett and Clark still struggling with injury Bruce has Lascelles and Fernandez as his preferred starting centre back pairing. With Lejeune set to join Alaves on loan due to persistent injury problems and Schar available for transfer having a injury problems of his own and being in the final year of his contract.
Bruce seems to prefer Schar in a back three but wants to return to a back four for this season and therefore is willing to let the popular defender leave should a decent offer come in.
Newcastle look to be content with Krafth and Manquillo at right back with Yedlin up for sale. Lewis obviously now starts on the left and forgotten full-back Lazaar is another looking to be moved on.
An extra centre back seems likely given how things are shaping up. Bruce could turn to Chris Smalling who had a good season on loan abroad last season, but many fans will wonder whether the former England international still has what it takes at Premier league level. He does though possess that all important PL experience and Bruce may well make an approach on loan perhaps with a view to a permanent move should he impress. Another possibility is Fikayo Tomori of Chelsea who is attracting interest from Everton. Young, strong and fast, he could be a good addition to the Newcastle squad. And then of course there is Phil Jones. If Bruce temporarily loses control of his faculties, he may well make a move the oafish Manchester defender who offers versatility if little else.
Further up the pitch relies heavily on outgoing, namely Muto and Atsu. Should Bruce decide to play with a solo striker then he may well settle for a trio of options in the shape of Wilson, Carrol and Joelinton and therefore target an attacker who could also play in the number 10 position.
Should Muto, Atsu and Ritchie leave then Bruce will look to retain the services of Jacob Murphy who can play on either wing or possibly more centrally, yet rather untested in that position. Gayle may well be left out of the squad if he is injured until Christmas to make room for another attacker to come in.
The acquisition of Fraser seems to suggest that Bruce would like to play with wide men in attacking areas but could switch between a 4-2-3-1 and a 4-4-2 if he considers playing big Jo up along side Wilson. He could also opt for a 4-3-3 dropping Miggy in a deeper role on the left of a centre three allowing ASM to feature higher up the pitch.
If Bruce does decide to bring in another forward he might have to look abroad as a young striker from England may only have limited opportunities considering the 3 main strikers already on the books. Liverpool’s Rhian Brewster and Arsenal’s Eddie Nketiah have both been linked.
A more senior player who may be out of favour with their current employers may be more viable option and offers a good ‘try before you spend 40 million quid and they score 4 goals’ sort of scenario.
Loan signings have often been associated with taking young players and then sending them back having developed them for no real gain to the club. But with top clubs gorging themselves on talent, much of the time to simply monopolise the market, they often find themselves with players who can’t even get close enough to warm the bench on matchday.
Bruce and his scouting team will have several options at which they are looking at, but which one will almost certainly depend upon which Newcastle players head out of the North East.
Keep your eyes open. If Newcastle manage to shift a few out, there may still be some significant activity.