The last few years were very turbulent at Newcastle United and fans were very unhappy with how club owner Mike Ashley led the club. His inability to keep his promises to the fans and poor behaviour towards the club history and legends like Alan Shearer were the reasons why he was public enemy no.1 in Newcastle. On the 7th of October, most Newcastle fans felt relief when the Saudi Arabian-backed takeover was completed. Everybody knows what it means when such a cash injection happens in the Premier League, there is a high probability that the new owners will look to bring a lot of new names and change the blood count of the squad.
New manager Eddie Howe will have a tough start to his spell at the club because he needs to get them out of the relegation zone and he needs to bring players who can help him instantly. The important thing is that they don’t bring players who are past their peak or who are motivated to sign only because of the money. There is a lot of speculation already about which players could be signed in the January transfer window and as we know how it works with media, there are a lot of unrealistic takes.
Assessment of the current roster
In this section, we will take a look into the current roster and evaluate the available options. We will see how many minutes each player has played this season compared to the age group via this scatter graph.
At first sight, we can see that Newcastle doesn’t have a lot of young players; only 3 players are aged 23 or younger: new arrivals Joe Willock(permanent) and Santiago Muñoz(loan) alongside Jamal Lewis who was signed in the summer of 2020 but didn’t adapt well, which can be seen in his minutes. There are a lot of players at peak phase and while some are thriving, like Allan Saint-Maximin, some aren’t playing as well as expected.
Peak players in the underperformers category include Joelinton, Ryan Fraser, Miguel Almirón and Jamaal Lascelles. That quartet should play on a higher level. Maybe the arrival of Eddie Howe will bring these players up to the required level, especially Ryan Fraser who played his best football under Howe during their years together at Bournemouth.
There are a lot of players entering the experienced age group and except for Callum Wilson, it is hard to see them staying at the club for next season, given the expected changes. There are a few players from the experienced age group who play meaningful minutes in the team and their experience is needed for the team to brave the current period, but having many old players on the pitch at the same time could be a bad idea in a league with such a high tempo. The next image shows us Newcastle United’s squad depth in the 4-4-2 system that Eddie Howe prefers.
Martin Dúbravka has fallen down the goalkeeper pecking order behind Karl Darlow and Freddie Woodman, which is expected given the fact that they are younger, homegrown players while his last two seasons were accompanied by occasional errors that led to opponents’ goals. The whole defence needs reconstruction because there is a lot of old players who are not playing well enough. At right-back, there are two peak players, with Jacob Murphy often playing in that position too; it is a position where they rotate a lot.
In the wide positions, there are players worth giving another shot, along with Allan Saint-Maximin who is clearly the best player in the team this season. The central midfield and centre-forward positions should be a priority for strengthening in the winter transfer window because that will be crucial for the second half of the season. Counting on Callum Wilson, who is injury prone, as your only reliable forward isn’t the smartest when you are fighting to avoid relegation.
After looking at the current squad, it is clear that central positions need instant strengthening and we’ve opted to look for centre-backs, central midfielders and centre-forwards.
Database and methodology
The database for each position contains players from the English 1st and 2nd tier, along with the first tiers from France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Argentina, Brazil, Portugal, Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, Russia, Denmark, Sweden, Austria, Czech, Ukraine, Hungary, Norway, Croatia, Poland and Scotland. We used Wyscout data and took into account players who:
- Played at least 1000 minutes in the last calendar year.
- A market value between €2 million and €50 million.
- Age: 19-27 — because the squad is already filled with late peak & experienced players and needs younger players or players at their peak ready for a bigger step in their career.
For each position, we found players who could bring quality to the current squad, of course, we mentioned some hot players and some under the radar options from weaker leagues who could develop well. The visuals for the players in the following sections show players’ percentile ranks and true value in various statistics compared to the other players in the database.
Let’s dive into the potential targets. First, we will look at chosen centre-backs.
Potential targets: Centre-backs
On paper, when looking at Newcastle United’s centre-backs, we see some names who’ve been there for a long time and are experienced with playing in the Premier League. However, if the team wants to develop and improve, they need to bring in younger talent who could develop into much better players than the current ones.
Transfer targets mentioned in media: Clement Lenglet, Samuel Umtiti, Conor Coady, Wesley Fofana, James Tarkowski, Eric Bailly.
The transfer targets mentioned in the media are mostly players who showed that they are capable of playing on the highest level, and some of them are out-of-favour at their current clubs. However, for all of them, there is a reason why are they in such a situation. In the list below, we’ve highlighted some players who would surely make an instant impact for the team and some who may be riskier options but could bring much needed fresh blood to the defence while also developing into reliable centre-backs for the team.
Edmond Tapsoba developed rapidly over the last two seasons since his arrival from Vitória Guimaraes to Bayer Leverkusen in the winter transfer window in 2020. Leverkusen paid €18 million for him then, and now his market value is €40 million which is probably the lowest sum they will get for him, given the fact that he is at the age of 22 and has a long-term contract which ties him to the club until 2026.
Based on the evaluated metrics in the image, we can see that Tapsoba is above average in almost every single metric. It is impressive how he plays so many forward passes and tries to progress the ball effectively while keeping his passing accuracy over 90%. He is right-footed and plays as a left centre-back for Bayer Leverkusen in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Tapsoba is listed at 194cm which makes him very interesting for any Premier League team given his mobility and physical capabilities.
Compared to the other centre-backs on this list, his transfer would probably require the highest transfer fee, but he looks like the real deal and could become one of the best centre-backs in the league in the future.
Croatian international Duje Ćaleta-Car is a name that was mentioned in the last two transfer windows in terms of making a move to the Premier League. There was interest from Liverpool last season when they were facing injury woes and also this summer when Wolverhampton Wanderers wanted to bring him in, but he didn’t like the idea of playing there. He is at his peak age and his physical abilities would help him adapt to the Premier League quickly. Just like Tapsoba, he is right-footed but mostly plays as a left centre-back.
On the visual, we can see that he looks dominant in both aerial and defensive duels. His biggest strength is his passing ability and he can make an impact when the team is in possession of the ball. He is a very accurate passer who is capable of hitting long passes with accuracy and also breaking lines with fast vertical passes.
Ćaleta-Car has experience playing in European competitions for RB Salzburg and Olympique de Marseille while also being a part of the Croatian NT in the last two major tournaments. His contract runs out in 2023 and his club doesn’t have the leverage to demand a high transfer fee given his short-term contract.
Wolfsburg did an incredible piece of business in summer 2020 when they paid Sochaux €5 million for a youngster Maxence Lacroix, who is now worth five times more than that. Lacroix adapted to the Bundesliga instantly and played a crucial role (30 appearances in Bundesliga) in Wolfsburg’s success last season when they finished 4th, leading to Champions League football this season. The young Frenchman is right-footed and listed at 190cm.
On the visual, we can see that Lacroix looks very good in many metrics, including both defensive and passing abilities. It is clear that he needs to improve his aerial duels given the low success rate. He is very active defensively and competes in a lot of duels and has a lot of successful defensive actions while also performing very well in interceptions. Reading of the game and his physical capabilities are surely some of this youngster’s biggest strengths. His passing ability looks very good; he tries a lot of line breaking passes and tends to progress the ball often.
Lacroix is a hardworking centre-back who has amazing physical attributes and he could be dominant in the future if he keeps developing. He has a release clause of €40 million starting from the summer, which seems like a cheap price compared to what he brings to the pitch and his high potential.
Marcos Senesi is predominantly left-footed and he is listed at 185cm. He is yet to play for Argentina, but after the last season, he looks like a player who is ready to play at a higher level. Senesi is entering his peak age and his ball-playing ability is on a very high level.
We can see that his data profile is very similar to Tapsoba and he delivers in both phases of the game. He performs a lot of defensive actions, in which he is very successful and reliable. It is clear that he makes a lot of progressive actions with driving the ball forward and with his passing in an attempt to break the lines of the opponent. Senesi has a long passing range and can switch sides of play effectively. He is capable of scoring goals from attacking set pieces which adds to his value.
Apparently, there is a lot of interest in Senesi, especially from Serie A clubs. He is a very good option to strengthen the defence and bringing in a ball-playing centre-back is important for the club.
This Manchester City academy product was signed by Fulham for a cheap price at just €1.65 million and it’s proving to be a very good investment for the club. Adarabioyo played well last season but his efforts weren’t enough to save the club from relegation. However, Adarabioyo showed that he is Premier League-caliber and that he belongs in the top-flight.
Adarabioyo’s big frame and strong physical attributes allow him to be dominant in both ground and air duels. He is safe with his passing and he is capable of moving the ball quickly in the build-up. He could improve in his progressive ability, but he would add defensive value to the current Newcastle United defence.
Adarabioyo is right-footed and he is listed at 196cm. His contract expires in 2023 with the club having a one additional year option. He is homegrown, as well, which is an important fact.
These centre-back options would improve the defence because they proved themselves on their current level and are ready for a new challenge in a better league.
Potential targets: Central midfielders
Newcastle United’s midfield options are very similar in terms of profile except for Joe Willock, who can score goals from the shadows. In this section, we will take a look into players who can bring quality to the team and be able to dominate in the centre of the pitch.
Transfer targets mentioned in media: Aaron Ramsey, Dele Alli, Mattéo Guendouzi, Donny van de Beek, Declan Rice, Jude Bellingham.
The transfer targets who’ve already been mentioned in the media are proven players that would bring needed quality for the team, and most of them look like very good options for the squad rebuilding. The options below seem like quality options, as well, based on their performances at their current clubs.
Mikel Merino played 25 matches for Newcastle United in season 2017/18 on loan from Borussia Dortmund. Newcastle United activated a clause to buy him for €7 million and sold him instantly to Real Sociedad for €12 million. Since then Merino developed into a quality midfielder who is now a regular part of the Spain NT squad and his market value reached €40 million on Transfermarkt.
We can see that Merino performs above average in both directions on the pitch. His technical ability is on the highest level and he can make a difference with very precise passing. He brings a lot of energy to his team and has a high work ethic.
He is listed at 189 cm and predominantly left-footed. His release clause, according to the rumours, is around €60 million which is a fair price given the current market and the fact that he is a Spanish national team player. In the summer, Barcelona showed interest in him but their financial situation prevented them from trying to sign him.
Boubacar Kamara is a 21-year-old defensive midfielder who plays at Olympique de Marseille. Kamara is a product of Marseille’s academy and he is currently playing a vital role for the club for the 4th season in a row. He is ready for the next step in his career.
He has a lean build and is listed at 184cm but he dominates in duels in the midfield. His physical abilities are on the top level and he is capable of adapting to Premier League tempo instantly. Based on his data profile we can see that he is providing quality numbers defensively. However, he is not limited in possession either and he is a very accurate passer who makes an impact by finding teammates in the final third.
Kamara could be a good foundation for the team rebuild and someone who can develop into one of the best holding midfielders in the game. His contract expires next summer which means he could be a bargain in this transfer window.
Borussia Mönchengladbach midfielder Florian Neuhaus played an impressive three seasons in Bundesliga and developed as the club expected him to after signing him on free in 2017 and sending him on loan to Fortuna Düsseldorf for one season. He is listed at 182cm and predominantly right-footed.
When his team is in possession, his qualities get the spotlight. His off the ball movement and intelligent decisions make him a joy to watch. He has an impressive passing ability and a creative mindset. As we can see on his data profile, he scores very high in passing metrics while he is average in defensive duels success rate and successful defensive actions.
Neuhaus is a regular German national team player and he would be a top signing for any club which looks to dominate in possession. He is entering his peak age and maybe the physicality of the Premier League would demand a certain time to adapt, but it doesn’t put in doubt how much quality he has as a player.
Gonzalo Villar was a crucial part of Roma’s starting XI last season, but this season he is spending a low amount of time on the pitch. This is something that regularly happens when José Mourinho takes over a club and we saw something similar happening to better players than Villar in his spells at Manchester United (Nemanja Matić) and Chelsea (Juan Mata).
We can see from his data profile that Villar is a player who can make a high amount of safe and secure passes. He could improve in his distribution of long passes and progress the ball more often. Villar has a high work ethic and brings energy on the pitch. His success rate in duels should improve with experience, but he reads the game well and knows how to cut passing lanes.
Villar is listed at 181cm and is predominantly right-footed. Roma already gave him a green light to leave the club in January and there is a high interest from Everton, Napoli and some La Liga clubs as well. His price shouldn’t be higher than €10 million since he is out of favour in Roma.
Nicolas de la Cruz is a versatile player who plays for River Plate and he is capable of playing in multiple positions. He is naturally a central midfielder (#8) who is capable of playing on wide positions and as a #10. De La Cruz is listed at 167cm and he is predominantly right-footed.
As we can see on his data profile he is offensive-minded and brings creativity to the team with the ability to create from the deep, but also to make a decisive pass in the final third. His pace and agility help him to progress through the middle with the ball at his feet. Defensively he lacks aggression and strength, but he has a good work rate and can cover a lot of ground.
In the last year, there were rumours that Everton and Manchester City were thinking about triggering his €20 million release clause. He has 12 caps for Uruguay and he is one of the best players in the South American leagues.
Newcastle’s midfield options are strong and every player on this list would make an instant impact and add needed quality if signed.
Potential targets: Centre-forwards
We mentioned that it is hard to rely on injury-prone players like Callum Wilson while the other natural centre-forwards are not on the needed level to perform constantly in the Premier League. Every chance matters when you are trying to avoid relegation and it is important to have a centre-forward who can guarantee goals or at least create space for the others to get into promising chances.
Transfer targets mentioned in media: Alexandre Lacazette, Mauro Icardi, Anthony Martial, Timo Werner, Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Karim Adeyemi.
All the transfer targets mentioned in the media have the abilities mentioned above and they can make an instant impact on the team. The options below are very close to that as well and they are worth looking at for a rebuilding team.
There is no need for a detailed presentation of Alexander Isak who proved himself at Real Sociedad last two seasons and showed that he can deal with the best defenders in the game. He is a tall and technically skilled forward and that profile is always in demand.
Isak is very skilled in tight spaces and can create enough space to attempt a shot because of his neat ball control. He often finds himself in goalscoring situations, but also he makes a lot of valuable actions for his team. Isak physical ability and off the ball movement makes him hard to mark.
Isak signed a new long-term contract in the summer which ties him to the club till 2026 and reported minimum release clause is set at €90 million. Both Manchester clubs and Liverpool showed interest in him which just confirms how highly regarded he is.
Andrea Belotti is already an established name in European football and there was a big hype around him a few seasons ago, but he stayed at Torino even after interest from bigger clubs. Belotti managed to score double-digit goals in Serie A six seasons in a row in an average Torino squad. He already has 41 caps while scoring 12 goals for the Italian national team.
Belotti is a powerful centre-forward who uses his strength and aerial ability to keep the ball for his team. He is capable of scoring and assisting while doing massive work defensively. Belotti has a high work rate and likes to put pressure on defenders. As we can see on his data profile he is at the top percentile compared to the other forwards when it comes to offensive duels and dribbling success rates.
The main reason why Belotti stayed at the club was his high minimum release clause which stood at €100 million but given the fact that his contract expires in the summer and he demanded a release clause of around €25 million in the new contract, it seems that he is ready to leave the club soon. His ability to deliver goals regularly means he would be a perfect addition to Newcastle and his presence would make a positive impact on the whole team.
Darwin Núñez is a right-footed centre-forward who plays for Benfica. Even though he is tall (187cm) he is fast and mobile which makes him useful on the wing as well. Benfica paid him €24 million to Almeria in the summer of 2020.
Núñez manages to get a lot of touches close to the opposition goal and he has good finishing ability in front of goal. He can facilitate for his teammates constantly which can be seen based on his xA and shot assists. Núñez has a high work ethic and plays with intensity and aggression on both ends of the pitch.
He is still a young player who is yet to reach his peak age and has a lot of room to improve. He collected six caps for the Uruguayan national team and scored two goals so far. What rejects potential buyers like Milan, Chelsea and Real Madrid is his €150 million minimum release clause. Newcastle surely can afford to spend that amount of money, but it seems that there are better options for lower cost like the two players mentioned above him.
Bruno Petković is a centre-forward who plays for Dinamo Zagreb and proved himself as a quality forward both in the Champions League and Europa League. He has 21 caps for the Croatian national team and he scored six goals.
What makes Petković interesting is that he is tall(193cm) and feels natural when playing as a false nine because he likes to drop deep and create goalscoring opportunities for his teammates. His data profile looks almost perfect which is pumped a little given the fact he plays for the dominant Dinamo side in his domestic league, but it also precisely shows that he can do everything on the opposition half. He isn’t a natural goalscorer, but everyone else around him scores goals because he makes his teammates better.
This signing could be risky because of Petković lower work rate, but his technical and creative ability would complement the players like Wilson and Saint-Maximin who would thrive next to him. His contract expires in 2024 and he would cost around €15 million.
The last option in the centre-forward position is Breel Embolo. Once labelled as a wonderkid when he was playing for Basel. He made a debut for Switzerland national team when he was 18 years old and he currently has 50 caps to his name. Embolo had tough injuries when he was playing for Schalke because he had fibula fracture, ankle fracture and then foot fracture in the span of two years which largely stopped his development.
Embolo is a very strong and fast player who can dominate defenders because of his physical qualities. We can see on his data profile that he has good xG and xA values meaning he can both score and assist. He tries a lot of dribbles and he likes to drift wider and take players on 1v1 in an attempt to create overload in the final third.
Embolo is a very good player and he is entering his peak age where we expect him to reach his potential. His physical capabilities would help him a lot in adapting to the Premier League. His contract at Borussia Mönchengladbach expires in 2023.
The centre-forwards shortlist contains well-known names in European football. Each of these players is a different profile from the other, but each of them would add quality to the current Newcastle front line.
This recruitment and data analysis contains three shortlist of interesting options for Newcastle squad rebuild. All players are realistic transfers and we tried to include players who would be long-term options for the club because they are entering the peak of their career or they are currently at their peak and have a lot to offer in the future. It is important to note that this analysis is based on data while the final filtering of players was based on knowledge/video analysis.