Eddie Howe wants competition all over the pitch for Newcastle United and he now has it in just about every position – save arguably the most important of them all.
There is less than a week until their Premier League opener with Nottingham Forest and, despite being the priority of all windows, Newcastle are yet to acquire any attacking reinforcements.
Leicester City midfielder James Maddison is the latest name added to a growing list of players they have either offered or inquired about, without signing. It’s a situation that Howe admits is causing him ‘frustration’ and, although their need is not yet desperate, with Callum Wilson and Allan Saint-Maximin fit, they are only one injury away from one. either of this fragile duo far from running out of firepower. .
A staggering 87,452 supporters saw two Newcastle United XIs claim friendly wins in 24 hours, but it was the 46,856 in attendance for Saturday’s 2-1 win over Athletic Bilbao who saw their attacking difference makers in action .
As genuinely excited as many young fans were to attend St James’ Park on Friday night, one boy summed up the slight disappointment felt by some by asking his father: “But where’s Callum Wilson?”
Chris Wood may have confidently dispatched his kick to secure a 1-0 triumph over Atalanta but, otherwise, he rarely threatened
Put simply, Newcastle turn into an attacking team when Wilson leads the line instead. This was evident in the final two matches of last season, but the contrast was even more stark when observing their respective performances in the friendlies on successive days up close.
👏 87,452 fans inside St. James’ Park over the past two days.
Thank you for your incredible support. 🖤🤍 pic.twitter.com/sWfQp2qJpG
– Newcastle United FC (@NUFC) July 30, 2022
Certainly, Wilson has benefited from being fielded as part of an almost first-choice front six, with Saint-Maximin, Bruno Guimaraes and Joelinton also set to start against Forest. Either way, Wilson’s influence cannot be overstated; he is Newcastle’s most valuable player, bar none.
Such reliance on Wilson for goals – he scored 18 per cent (eight goals) of Newcastle’s 44 in the league last season, despite missing half the campaign – and Saint-Maximin for creativity seems unsustainable.
When both are available, Newcastle will cause problems for almost every Premier League defence. However, their dubious durability poses real problems for Newcastle.
That’s why it’s simply unthinkable for Newcastle to end the window without bolstering their front line, with a striker and winger still in demand, although Howe admits he expected a striker to come along. is already attached at the present time.
It is not due to a lack of effort.
A deal for Hugo Ekitike had been agreed with Reims, after six months of talks, only for the Frenchman to move to Paris Saint-Germain. Calls have since been made asking for the potential availability of a host of attacking players at home and abroad, to no avail.
Leeds United winger Jack Harrison remains of keen interest but he, like many others, is valued by his club at a higher price than Newcastle are willing to pay, at least at this stage. while there is still a month in the window.
Newcastle sporting director Dan Ashworth is in regular contact with his counterparts at other influential clubs and agents, finally trying to break through. Intermediaries have been told Newcastle’s preference is to bring in players under the age of 26 – reminiscent of the overall plan under Mike Ashley, albeit much more flexible this time around – as the club attempt to lower the average age of his team.
Maddison is an interesting case as he is neither a wide man nor a centre-forward. But, with those positions proving difficult to fill, Howe is receptive to the idea of injecting purpose and creativity elsewhere in his team. Maddison was directly involved in 20 league goals at Leicester last season, and the 25-year-old would offer fresh ingenuity to this Newcastle side.
Burnley’s Maxwel Cornet remains an option, despite not previously being a priority target, highlighting how Newcastle have had to change their approach in the face of an inflated market. Leicester’s Harvey Barnes also has admirers at Tyneside but, like his club-mate Maddison, it’s hard to imagine how Newcastle can present a financial package that would entice Leicester to sell.
Loans could still play an important role in Newcastle’s strategy. Timo Werner is one of a number of players from the top six clubs that Newcastle have asked to be kept informed of.
Despite owners who, in theory, can call on untold wealth, Newcastle operates within economic parameters. From the start, the business plan called for organic growth and an increase in revenues recovered through an increase in commercial agreements, which have not yet come to fruition.
In the short term, Newcastle is exploring all possible means to maximize its resources. Last week they entered into a loan facility with HSBC, secured by this season’s TV and box office revenues. This is standard practice for top clubs so they can access guaranteed future revenue immediately.
But the indication is that this doesn’t suddenly mean the £140m-plus ($171m) they expect to receive from broadcasters and through the turnstiles this season will suddenly be poured into the prize pool of transfer from Howe. If Newcastle are able to offer £40m for Maddison, they clearly have money left in their budget – yet just as they funded Nick Pope’s signing in installments and agreed to pay the ‘Ekitike in several slices. years, their offer to Leicester was structured.
Newcastle don’t have the money to fund all of their deals up front, so instead they’re willing to pay increased fees over time for good players. Yet they still find the market diabolical.
However, their transfer struggles should not unduly cloud a largely positive end to Newcastle’s pre-season.
Elliot Anderson impressed again, highlighting why Howe is set to keep the 19-year-old at Tyneside, rather than send him on loan, while Sven Botman and Pope made their St James debuts and showed that Newcastle now possessed strength in depth in defence.
The challenge is at the other end of the field where, beyond Wilson and Saint-Maximin, the winners of matches remain worrying, even if Howe must still give up the arrival of reinforcements before Forest.
(Photo by George Wood/Getty Images)