After a dire summer period, Newcastle United must focus on footballing matters, with just three weeks left until the Premier League season begins.
The Magpies have finally found a replacement for talismanic manager Rafa Benitez; albeit an underwhelming and unpopular appointment in Steve Bruce. Although Bruce cannot be compared to Rafa in terms of calibre and football expertise, a new man at the helm is a start for the club in a somewhat avoidable rebuilding process.
With a manager now in place, the club will now attempt to secure transfer deals that were previously lined up. The Magpies have an unusual structure in place in terms of transfers, with managing director Lee Charnley, chief scout Steve Nickson and the ‘head coach’ now Steve Bruce all cooperating when discussing possible deals. Transfers are a key issue this window, with United being the only Premier League club not to sign a player thus far.
On the other hand, Newcastle have had a flurry of outgoings since the end of last season. United have lost their two top goalscorers in Ayoze Perez and Salomon Rondon, while Joselu has completed a move away to Alaves, Mo Diame’s contract was not renewed, along with Kenedy and Antonio Barreca returning back to their respective parent clubs following loan deals. Such activity leaves Newcastle needing at least six new signings to simply return to the level they were at last season, not to mention the demand to replace the 58% of their Premier League goals lost in Perez and Rondon.
The hierarchy seem to be aware of the striker situation, with reports stating that Hoffenheim forward Joelinton is closing in on a move to St James’ Park in what would be a club record £36m move. Although the forward is unproved and command a hefty fee, he is seen as the man to replace Rondon, with the board opting against signing Rondon due to his age. With Mike Ashley now willing to invest, this is merely papering over the cracks in an attempt to persuade supporters to renew their season tickets, with 12,000 Geordies rightly not doing so.
Aside from transfers, Steve Bruce has plenty of work to do. Firstly, he must assess the squad in terms of who he feels is ready for the first team and who may need to be offloaded or given time away on loan.
Next, the squad needs strengthening, with the aforementioned recruitment process underway. He then needs to implement his playing style and tactics, oversee the squad’s pre-season tour in China and the remaining close-season matches, as well as motivate the team in order to be ready for the start of the campaign.
Time is very much of the essence for Newcastle United, with major work to be done. It may well be a case of too little too late, given Newcastle’s renowned sluggishness when conducting transfers, with the transfer window closing in under three weeks as well as the season starting a few days later.
Bookmakers have now made the Magpies odds-on to be relegated and, if drastic action is not taken, Newcastle look set to struggle.