Newcastle United have committed more than £250m on transfer fees in the three transfer windows since the new owners took control. The squad has been transformed from relegation battlers to Champions League qualifiers, and there is a strong argument that the majority of the first team either already are, or have the potential to become, Champions League quality footballers. This has been aided in no small part by the outstanding coaching of Eddie Howe, but the recruitment from the club has been almost flawless.
Eddie Howe has made a point of saying on a few occasions that he is not in favour of radically overhauling the squad. He thrives on maximising the skillset of players and fostering a strong team spirit with a collective work ethic augmented by the professionalism and personal qualities of his players. Howe’s ideal scenario is to add one or two high quality players each window if needed, supplemented by younger players developed through the academy who have been picked up by the club’s ever increasing global scouting network. There are also the continued restrictions imposed by Financial Fair Play (or Profit and Sustainability rules in new UEFA language), which are applicable to Newcastle (in addition to the Premier League rules) now they will be competing in Europe next season.
Despite Howe’s vision of what recruitment and squad building should ideally look like, Newcastle’s squad depth is an issue, particularly now they will be fighting on four fronts with regular midweek European trips. The squad creaked under the weight of injuries and suspensions at points during the 2022/23 season. If Newcastle want to repeat their league performance next time round, as well as compete in domestic cups and the Champions League, they will have to make significant moves once again in the transfer market. The Magpies will be playing a minimum of six additional midweek European games in the autumn, and the 2023/24 season is set to be a steep (and valuable) learning curve for everybody at the club. There is already a lack of European level experience at the club among both the coaching staff and the playing staff. This is uncharted waters for this version of Newcastle United.
Newcastle’s 2021/22 accounts offered an insight into the club’s financial situation. They made a loss of £74m and are set to make another loss in the 2022/23 accounts. This could take them to the very edge of FFP compliance. However, they now have guaranteed income from European participation (the Champions League was worth on average £86m plus additional TV money to English participants in 2021/22) and are also set to announce some major sponsorship deals. This increased revenue stream, as well as the overdue ability to start selling some players, points towards one more big summer of transfer business for Newcastle before things start to settle down into more of the type of steady transfer scenario that Howe (and the club) would prefer.
This article will analyse the Newcastle squad on a position-by-position basis and assess where the funds may be directed this summer, as the club gears up for its first Champions League campaign in 20 years.
Nick Pope was something of a surprise addition last summer with Newcastle already having a good first-choice goalkeeper in Martin Dubravka, but the former Burnley man has been a snip at a reported £10m and has been one of the best goalkeepers in the Premier League this season. He had one or two mad moments in the second half of the campaign, and that red card against Liverpool will haunt him forever, but he has generally been a huge presence between the sticks. The 31-year-old is in his prime years and is an influential figure in the dressing room. He should have the gloves nailed down for another few seasons at least.
Many Newcastle fans feel Martin Dubravka has burned his bridges at St James’ Park after his ill-fated loan move to Manchester United for the first half of this season. That was a strange affair all around, but it is understandable why he wanted to go if he was told he would play more as a backup for the Red Devils with their European participation. There is also the pull factor of playing for one of the world’s biggest clubs which shouldn’t be underestimated. That move didn’t work out, and it may have raised questions over his commitment, but he has been welcomed back into the fold at Newcastle since January and has served well as understudy to Pope. The 34-year-old has two years remaining on his deal, and he could see them out if he is happy playing second fiddle.
Loris Karius’ redemption arc was sadly not to be at Wembley, where he was thrust into centre stage due to Pope’s Liverpool nightmare and Dubravka’s cup-tied status. The 30-year-old did not do anything wrong in the Carabao Cup Final and could be offered a new deal as third choice if he is happy with that, although he may be looking for more first team football at this stage of his career.
Karl Darlow finally looks set to end his long association with Newcastle this summer if he completes a permanent switch to current loan club, Hull City, where he won their player of the month for March. Mark Gillespie is out of contract and won’t be retained.
Newcastle have already added 18-year-old Irish talent Reece Byrne to their development squad for next season. It won’t be too long until they are looking for another first-team ready, high-potential young goalkeeper to provide back up and competition for Nick Pope. This could be expedited if one of Dubravka or Karius do leave and the right option is sourced at a good price, but it wouldn’t appear to be a priority for transfer spending at this stage. The other option Newcastle might want to consider is bringing back an older ‘homegrown’ goalkeeper such as Tim Krul or Fraser Forster, which would help with the quota for the European squad.
A centre-back by trade, Dan Burn has filled in for almost the entire 2022/23 season at left back for Newcastle, and he has mostly done a very solid job. He may look unorthodox with his height, and there are weaknesses in his attacking game, but the 31-year-old has formed a key part of the best defence in the league. His ability to slot in beside the centre backs has enabled Kieran Trippier to bomb forward and provide an attacking threat down the opposite flank. Burn has had a few tough games against some of the best wingers in the league and has been singled out for the scapegoat treatment by fans at times, but he has repaid Howe’s trust and will be a useful and versatile squad player for the next few seasons. He is also a big voice in the dressing room, providing that local link along with a few other players.
Matt Targett’s loan move from Aston Villa was made permanent last summer, but the 27-year-old has endured a frustrating season, starting only six league games. He picked up an injury early in the season then struggled to get back into the first-team picture with Howe preferring to stick with the defence which had been performing so well. Targett will hope for increased game time next season with Newcastle’s involvement in Europe and he will hope to remain fit to challenge for the left back spot.
Jamal Lewis has barely kicked a ball in anger for Newcastle this season. The Northern Ireland international is 25 now and should be coming into his prime, but his career has stalled badly over the last few years. He is contracted until 2025 but any hopes he had of reviving his career at St James’ Park would appear to be over now, and Howe was non-committal when asked about his future. It would be a major surprise if he was named in the squad for next season and it seems most likely he will be sold or loaned out.
Newcastle’s longest serving player, Paul Dummett, is out of contract this summer. The 31-year-old has been named on the bench a handful of times but has not made a first team appearance this season. Howe has said he wants to offer him a new deal for a further year to keep him around the squad for his experience and character (and presumably to help with the homegrown quota), but, unless there is space in the squad, this wouldn’t appear feasible when the squad depth needs to be improved for the busy season coming. There could be a strange scenario whereby Dummett is included in the European squad but not the Premier League squad.
Like last summer, it appears very likely that Newcastle will be in the market for a specialist left back in the upcoming transfer window. A mobile left back who can provide attacking balance to Trippier on the right-hand side would improve the team significantly, and provide Howe with extra options, despite the club possessing the joint best defence in the Premier League in 2022/23.
Newcastle’s player of the season, Kieran Trippier, is unquestionably the best right back to play for the club in the Premier League era. His experience and leadership is invaluable, and he is one of the few players in the squad to have Champions League experience. Trippier turns 33 in September but he started every league game this season and won’t be relinquishing the right back slot any time soon. The challenge for Howe will be managing Trippier’s gametime to stave off injuries to keep him fit, and evolving the team so it isn’t so reliant on Trippier for attacking creativity.
Given Trippier’s importance to the team this season, no other right back has had much of a look in. The unfortunate Emil Krafth sustained a cruciate ligament injury in his first start of the season at Tranmere in the League Cup and missed the rest of the season. The Swede turns 29 by the time the season starts, and it is hard to see Newcastle discarding him unless a suitable offer comes in and he wants to go. Krafth is therefore likely to provide primary cover for Trippier next season, as he did in the 2021/22 season when Trippier had a lengthy absence.
Javier Manquillo has now been at St James’ Park for 6 years but has only made a handful of substitute appearances in the Premier League this season. The 29-year-old is contracted until 2024 but he is likely to be moved on this summer, either on a permanent deal or on loan.
Newcastle eventually acquired young prospect Harrison Ashby from West Ham in January after initially expressing interest in the summer. The 21-year-old is yet to feature for the first team and was apparently carrying an injury when he signed, although he has had some good performances for the reserves. Ashby will be too old to be counted as an under-21 player in the Premier League squad next season, so if Krafth stays he could head out on loan to pick up some much needed gametime. It’s difficult at this stage to know how close or otherwise Ashby is to being able to provide cover for Trippier.
Sven Botman was a big money signing in the centre of defence last summer, and the big Dutch Rolls-Royce has repaid every penny of the £35m fee. The 23-year-old has been an unmovable rock at times at the back and he contributes to the attack with his phenomenal range of passing. Botman has that left-sided centre-back position nailed down for as long as he wants it. Dan Burn can provide cover in that position given the likelihood that a first team left back will be signed.
31-year-old Fabian Schar was out of favour and on his way out of the door under Steve Bruce. Howe gave him a new contract until 2024 and the Swiss has flourished under some proper coaching. Schar’s ability on the ball makes him fit well into Howe’s system and he has remained fit for the entire season despite seeming to suffer a head injury at least once every game. Schar’s position in the squad is assured next season, although he may need to be rotated with his ageing legs and the additional games.
Because of the fact Botman and Schar have only missed two league games each, club captain Jamaal Lascelles has been restricted to just seven league appearances, with two starts away at Liverpool and Manchester City. Although he clearly lacks the ability on the ball to fit into this Newcastle team, Lascelles is a big voice in the dressing room and is part of the leadership group having been at St James’ Park since 2015. Eddie Howe would no doubt love to keep Lascelles around for his character and leadership qualities, but Lascelles turns 30 in November and, with only one year left on his contract, he may want to move on for more game time and some longer-term contract security. He would potentially be a good option for a lower half Premier League team and he could bring in a transfer fee, which will be important for Newcastle moving forward.
Regardless of what happens with Lascelles, Newcastle will be in the market for a centre-back this summer. Botman is the only one of the four centre-backs on the books who will be under 30 during next season, so there is a clear need to bring the average age of that position down. There is also a lack of pace at the back with neither Botman nor Schar known for their speed. With the increased demands on the squad there is no question that rotation will be needed. The chances are Newcastle will target a young, quick defender who is comfortable on the ball.
The importance of Bruno Guimaraes to Newcastle is demonstrated neatly by the fact that they didn’t win any of the six league games he missed. The Brazilian is the lynchpin of the team and when he ticks the team plays well. Even when he isn’t obviously outstanding in the game the 25-year-old is often controlling the tempo. Champions League football and a bumper new contract should keep him happy and see off any potential suitors, and he will continue to be the first name on the team sheet.
Second only to Bruno in terms of importance to the midfield has been the unlikely figure of Sean Longstaff, who has made remarkable improvement under Howe’s coaching and has become a key cog in Newcastle’s high-octane system. The Geordie looked like he could have been on his way out this time last year, but he was missed badly towards the end of the season when an injury sustained at Everton made him miss five of the last six league games. Longstaff’s engine and energy is phenomenal, and he routinely runs further than teammates and opponents alike. He only scored one league goal so there is clear room for improvement there for the 25-year-old, but he will deservedly be lining up in Europe for his boyhood club next season.
Last year’s success story Joelinton has taken his game to another level again this season, scoring six goals in 32 league appearances and finally earning himself a call up to the Brazil national squad. The versatile bulldozer has played all across the midfield and forward positions, splitting his time mainly between the left side of central midfield and the left attacking forward position. Along with Bruno, Joelinton will simply not be left out of the team when he is fit. He will be relishing playing on the biggest club stage of them all and Howe will be expecting more of the same from him next season, knowing he will get nothing less than full effort wherever on the pitch he asks him to play. Joelinton turns 27 a few days after the new season starts so is coming into his prime – a scary prospect for the rest of the Premier League.
Joe Willock only missed three league games, and 2022/23 was the season the 23-year-old really announced himself as a player of high potential. His best football was played in partnership with Joelinton on the left side of the midfield when they could interchange and he also showed signs of linking up well with Alexander Isak, resulting in some special moments (Willock’s inch perfect pass to the Swede against Spurs was one of the greatest assists SJP has ever seen). Willock as much as any other player has benefitted from working under Eddie Howe, although he only scored three league goals. His pace and league best ability to carry the ball forward are real assets. If he continues on his current trajectory he will be playing for England before long.
Newcastle’s midfield was only ever one injury or suspension away from crisis during 2022/23, particularly after Jonjo Shelvey was allowed to depart without being replaced in January. It is therefore fortunate that all four key players mentioned above were available to play at least 32 league games each. Towards the end of the season there were natural wide players playing out of position to plug holes, and even a debut for just turned 17-year-old, Lewis Miley. There was a lack of creativity in the midfield at times, particularly against teams sitting deep. This means Newcastle will almost certainly be spending significant funds on a creative midfielder, which will provide more tactical flexibility and options for Howe during a season where Newcastle may find they are allowed to keep possession by low-blocking defensive opponents. Another potential solution to this problem could be freeing Bruno up to play further forward by signing a true defensive midfielder, who can sit and protect the defence while the rest of the midfield focus on attack. It would not be a surprise to see Newcastle targeting funds on strengthening the midfield as a priority and signing at least two players capable of impacting the first team immediately.
Wing / Wide Forward
This is where things could start to get a bit contentious. Despite widespread acceptance that Newcastle could have done with an additional right-sided wide forward last summer, Howe persisted with what he had. Miguel Almiron repaid this faith in spectacular fashion during the autumn when he went on a freak scoring run. He ended up with 11 league goals and a new contract. Even when the goals tailed off there were still games (Brighton at home being the standout) where the 29-year-old embodied the ferocious pressing style synonymous with Newcastle’s success. There are technical deficiencies with Miggy which seem unable to be improved with coaching (his lack of a right foot being the most obvious problem), and his finishing can be awry at times, but even if he doesn’t play every game next season his style of play and ability to fit into the system mean he will be a key squad member.
Allan Saint-Maximin had a stop-start season, mostly through no fault of his own. At two different stages of the season he was struck down by injury just when he was finding his groove. His performance in the 3-3 draw with Manchester City in August was the best individual performance of the season by any player, and he backed that up with a goal of the season contender to equalise at Wolves the following week. He then missed the next two months and struggled to get back into the team until February. His form was mostly disappointing until April, when he got assists against Manchester United and West Ham, before missing the next five games with injury. He ended the season with 25 league appearances, 1 goal and 5 assists. The 26-year-old Frenchman’s talent has never been in doubt, but the ability of his body to cope with the demands of Howe’s style, and his aptitude to get through the defensive work required, remains open for debate. It will be a telling summer for the mercurial Maxi, who is the most likely high-value player to be offered an escape route if he does not want to stay and fight for his place. Howe said that whether the winger is here or not next season “will be dictated by Maxi himself”, which felt a long way from a flat-out denial that he would leave. If he does stay, his direct running, dribbling ability and creativity could be a major asset if he can stay fit.
Chief meme subject Jacob Murphy had easily his best season in a Newcastle shirt. The boyhood Newcastle fan has evidently loved every minute of being around the squad and he played in all but two of the league games, scoring 4 goals in the process. The 28-year-old is a manager’s dream and is highly valued as a key figure in the dressing room. With him being contracted until 2027, his place in the squad is assured unless an acceptable offer comes in and he wants to leave, which seems unlikely.
January signing Anthony Gordon has seen limited game time since his £45m move to St James’ Park from Everton. There have been flashes of his ability at times and he got a confidence boosting first goal at Chelsea on the last day of the season. It is obvious why Howe wanted him for his versatility, energy and willingness to track back, but there have also been a few games he’s struggled to impact and he hasn’t always looked fully fit. The 22-year-old will benefit as much as any other player from a pre-season and his ability to play multiple positions will see him slot in as an important squad player next season.
20-year-old Elliot Anderson made 22 league appearances in total with all but three coming from the bench. He’s been used mainly as central midfield cover but his best performance came at Nottingham Forest when he replaced Maxi at half time on the left wing and changed the game. He also played predominantly from the left during his successful loan spell at Bristol Rovers in 2021/22. The Geordie may have hoped for more game time and he could be sent out on loan next season to a Championship club if Howe feels that will serve his development best, although if he stays he would fill a valuable home grown spot for the European squad quota. He doesn’t turn 21 until November so won’t need to be included in the Premier League squad if he does stay around. His potential is obvious and next season could be a breakthrough one for Anderson if he is afforded more opportunity.
Veteran Matt Ritchie is out of contract in the summer and, although Howe has said he wants to keep him, it would be a surprise to see him named in the squad for next season unless there is space. If he is interested, there could be more chance Ritchie might stay in a coaching capacity given his obvious leadership skills and high standing in the dressing room.
Ryan Fraser was put on the naughty step after the January transfer window and sent to train with the kids, with Howe giving an uncharacteristically transparent response to questions about his future. The Scot still has a year to run on his contract and, while offloading him may prove difficult, he will not be part of the squad next season.
Although the signing of Gordon was expedited to January from this summer, there is still a sense that Newcastle would benefit from an elite level wide forward. Whether that happens this transfer window could depend on whether there are significant departures in this area of the pitch, and if the club can make a deal happen at a good price for their primary targets. If Maxi and Murphy stay, the Magpies may go in for another younger player with a high ceiling who can play on either wing to provide Howe with further options, rather than an established star. 18-year-old Aussie, Garang Kuol does not look ready for the Premier League yet and will likely head out on another (hopefully more successful) loan spell.
It was a successful season for Callum Wilson, who ended with a World Cup appearance under his belt and his best ever Premier League tally of 18 goals. April was phenomenal for the 31-year-old with him smashing in 8 goals from just 309 league minutes. 31 league appearances is a very good return for a player who had previously had such significant injury problems, although it wasn’t all plain sailing, with apparent form, fitness and (surprisingly) self-confessed complacency issues immediately post-World Cup leading some to question his long-term suitability. Wilson is highly valued by Howe and the healthy competition fostered by the challenge for his starting place will hopefully have the dual benefit of continuing to spur him on while allowing his body ample time to recuperate when he isn’t needed to play.
Alexander Isak is a supremely gifted footballer who could be at Newcastle for the next decade. The 23-year-old missed almost a third of the season after sustaining a thigh injury on international duty in September, but once he was back and fully fit he showed why the club spent more than £60m on him last summer. Some of his goals were spectacular, but it was his Messi-esque assist against Everton that no Newcastle fan will ever forget. He can play comfortably out wide for the benefit of the team, but his best position is as a #9. Comparisons with Thierry Henry are justified, and the big Swede will start the season up front for the Magpies.
Chris Wood being sold in January opens up a space in attack for a potential new signing. However, Newcastle won’t go out and spend another record fee with Wilson and Isak already in situ and with other players like Gordon, Joelinton and Saint-Maximin able to play up front if required. It could be that the club again goes for a young prospect in the forward position, maybe someone who can also play in the other attacking positions, or even a loan of a different profile of striker for when the game needs a different approach.
Possible 2023/24 Squad
Goalkeepers: Pope, Dubravka, Karius
Full Backs: Trippier, Krafth, Targett, New LB
Centre Backs: Botman, Schar, Burn, Lascelles, New CB
Midfielders: Bruno, Joelinton, Longstaff, Willock, New Mid x 2
Wingers / Wide Forwards: Almiron, Gordon, Murphy, New Wide Forward
Strikers: Isak, Wilson, New Striker
U21: Anderson, Miley
Loan: Ashby, Kuol
This squad would see the departures of Darlow, Gillespie, Manquillo, Dummett, Lewis, Fraser, Ritchie and Saint-Maximin. Saint-Maximin leaving would be highly controversial, but despite his clear talent there have been signs that his body cannot cope with the physical style of play Eddie Howe demands. Vitally, he would bring in a significant transfer fee, which would then create more wiggle room within the financial constraints imposed by FFP.
Football is a ruthless business and Dubravka, Lascelles and Murphy could be the other squad players deemed expendable that may generate something of a transfer fee. If an acceptable offer came in for them, you would expect the club to allow them to talk to potential new employers despite Howe no doubt being keen to keep them around next season (as was the case with Chris Wood and Jonjo Shelvey in January). With these players it could depend on whether they want to leave in search of more football or want to stay and be part of the squad at Newcastle next season.
Eddie Howe has already said that he thinks this could be the most challenging transfer window since the takeover, which is some statement considering the chaos and desperation of that first January window. Newcastle United are now, however, shopping in a very different market and in vastly changed circumstances, although there is still a fine balance to be struck between adding quality, managing the wage bill and retaining the team spirit that has served them so well over the last 18 months. Newcastle have no choice but to stock the squad for the rigours of a campaign where they will be fighting on four fronts, and this will make for a very busy and exciting summer at St James’ Park.