Five things Newcastle United must do this summer
Newcastle United are through another season; they’ve achieved their goal of Premier League survival once again and their owner, Mike Ashley, will be perfectly happy with that.
But once again they are striving for nothing, stuck in state of purgatory and only a change of ownership will change that.
There is a court case this summer to determine which way the prospective takeover by a Saudi Arabian-led consortium will go. The deal collapsed almost a year ago officially, but could be resurrected if Newcastle get the outcome they want against the Premier League.
In the meantime, though, it is down to Ashley to oversee Newcastle’s progress this summer. He cannot afford to let the club drift, or his attempts to sell the club could be affected as a result.
Here are five things Newcastle simply must do in the off season.
Sign Joe Willock
Never has a loan signing made such an instant impact and proven to be so clear a difference for Newcastle before. Joe Willock arrived at a crucial time in January, which saw the club begin to hurtle towards a relegation battle. Steve Bruce needed something extra in midfield, namely energy and a goal threat. Up stepped the 21-year-old Arsenal man until the end of the season.
A debut goal against Southampton led to a victory, and his form and popularity only grew from there. It wasn’t all plain sailing, but he sprung into action in the final seven games, becoming the youngest player in Premier League history to score in that many games consecutively. Only Alan Shearer has ever achieved that feat in Newcastle’s history.
His form will have impressed back at Arsenal, but he is unlikely to become a regular for them and it will only really have served to add to his value. An ambitious, forward thinking club would do everything they could to get Willock back; Newcastle must at least act like one here.
Get a new manager
Steve Bruce is far from popular among Newcastle supporters and hasn’t been since he replaced Rafael Benitez in 2019. Although he guided the team to another season in the Premier League with a 12th placed finish, that doesn’t tell the full story.
There were moments in the season where things looked precarious, and Bruce oversaw a run of just two wins in 20 games throughout the winter. Just two months ago,
Newcastle were one point above the drop zone; while Bruce deserves credit for the turnaround which saw that gap grow to 17, he also deserves criticism for his role in putting them in danger.
He has his backers too, mainly in the media, and too often the narrative has been how under-appreciated he is. But in truth, the defensive style of play has been frustrating for fans, especially given the form they later showed after a change to a more attacking style. It won’t happen, but Newcastle really should look to replace Bruce, whose relationship with supporters has reached toxic levels this season.
Keep Allan Saint-Maximin
Arguably most important of all. Allan Saint-Maximin is as important to Newcastle when he doesn’t play as when he does.
Without him, the team is flat, uninspired and very easy to play against, as he gives them a spark which is very difficult to find elsewhere.
After two years in England, Saint-Maximin has proven himself and clubs will be interested in taking him from St James’ Park this summer. While he has had his injury problems, the Frenchman has displayed himself to be a very good player and someone whose impact can transcend stats. Newcastle’s entire attacking identity often lives and dies with him.
Fortunately, and perhaps uncharacteristically, Newcastle’s hand is strong here. The 24-year-old only signed a new six-year contract this season, and the club is believed to have stuck a price tag of at least £70million on his head. They need to resist any bids if they want to enjoy a good season next year.
Sign a new striker
Callum Wilson made a huge difference for Newcastle this season. His arrival from Bournemouth last summer was a rare example of the club acting quickly and properly to sign a proven Premier League goalscorer. His 12 strikes were crucial, but like Saint-Maximin, he was notable in his absence.
The 29-year-old suffered knee and hamstring issues this season. Joelinton was his first replacement, but his goal record is poor and he isn’t really a true number 9. Dwight Gayle and Andy Carroll are the wrong side of 30 and both out of contract this summer; though the latter has been expected to sign a new deal, he has looked well off the pace.
Newcastle need a better alternative to Wilson, and the only way they’ll get one is if Ashley spends some money.
Freshen the team up in defence
There have been positives and negatives to the spine of the team which won promotion for Newcastle in 2017 staying together all these years. Their work ethic and desire is plain for all to see, but a lot of the players are now growing older at the same time. Ciaran Clark is now 31, as is Matt Ritchie, while Paul Dummett is 29.
The fact that Federico Fernandez is also 32 and Florian Lejeune, who has spent the season on loan at Alaves, is 30, means the defence is desperate for new blood. Celtic’s Kristoffer Ajer is a reported target and he certainly would fit the bill on Tyneside.