Newcastle United are expected to have a busy summer as they prepare for the Champions League in 2023/24.
Following their takeover, everyone was predicting European football for Newcastle to come eventually, but qualification for the Champions League arrived sooner than many expected as they now have to make sure their squad is good enough to take on the continent’s best.
Not only does this mean Newcastle will need to sign quality players, but they also need to make sure every squad member is up to the challenge, perhaps looking to move on some of those who may have helped the Magpies get to this stage. We’re very early into the summer but there will be a lot of speculation over rumoured departures over the next few months. So, what should Eddie Howe do? Who should he keep, and who should be maybe look to replace?
Let’s start with an easy one. Ryan Fraser hasn’t played for Newcastle’s first team since October and hasn’t been in a matchday squad since February, being sent to train with the U21s following a falling out with Howe. “I made the decision to concentrate on the players that are committed to Newcastle and for the benefit of the group I made that call,” Howe said of the decision, while also saying he didn’t have much chance of fighting his way back into the senior squad.
According to reports, Fraser was transfer listed in the January transfer window though no move materialised. This summer Newcastle will surely attempt to move Fraser on, though it wouldn’t be to free up a squad space, but rather just putting the mini-saga behind them to look to the future — while also freeing up some wages and any money that might come from a sale.
Another easy one, only this time the other way. While there haven’t been any concrete reports of Callum Wilson leaving Newcastle, there is a betting market for him to leave this summer and a few murmurings as a result. But there’s no reason for Newcastle to sell Wilson or any reason why he would want to leave. Wilson ended the 2022/23 Premier League campaign with 18 goals in 31 appearances including eight in the final eight games of the season. What made those eight goals more impressive is the fact that a few of them came when Wilson wasn’t particularly playing well, which is a valuable ability to have even if some did come from the penalty spot.
As the season went on we started to see the growth of a good partnership between Wilson and Alexander Isak, which will be vital for Newcastle as they fight across four competitions in 2023/24.
Martin Dubravka had a funny old season in 2022/23, being sent on loan to Manchester United for the first half of the campaign, making just two appearances for the Red Devils before returning to Newcastle. Unfortunately for Newcastle, those two appearances came in the Carabao Cup which meant that when Nick Pope was suspended for the final against Man Utd, Dubravka couldn’t play either as he was cup-tied. Dubravka went on to make just three appearances for Newcastle in the final part of the season, one in the FA Cup and two in the Premier League, including on the final day when Champions League football had been secured so Nick Pope opted to undergo surgery.
Dubravka has been a good servant for Newcastle over the years and is a capable deputy for Pope if the Englishman is injured or suspended, or Howe just wants to rotate. While Champions League football would be a draw, it’ll be hard for Newcastle to get a better goalkeeper willing to play no.2, and you’re not replacing Pope in goal.
“If you want to ask me, I am not desperate to leave the club. I am very attached to this club. I had different offers (to leave) in previous years when we were competing to survive in the Premier League,” Dubravka recently told the Chronicle.
He added: “I have played in the Champions League before. So I know it will be a completely different mood. I think the fans will see that and the whole city will see it. It will be absolutely mental for the lads.
“For myself as well, I still want to be part of the team. It is going to be interesting for everyone because everyone wants to be involved. We will have much more games to play so we need to have the squad as well.”
Jamaal Lascelles is about to hit nine years at Newcastle, having been captain for seven of those, but the past season was a tough one and his future is currently in doubt. The 29-year-old played just 11 games across all competitions for Newcastle in 2022/23, with over a third of his minutes coming in the Carabao Cup. The end of his season was cut short due to injury, but this was a case of Lascelles not being a starter any more, falling behind Fabian Schar and Sven Botman in the pecking order. And then there was Dan Burn being utilised as the third-choice centre-back, moving over from the left.
Heading into the Champions League, Newcastle needs quality options at centre-back for rotation, and while they appear to have lost out in the race for Kim Min-Jae, there is potential in Jean-Clair Todibo. Earlier in the window, the Magpies were listed among clubs interested in the French centre-back who had a fine season for Nice, playing 34 times with 105 clearances and 54 headed clearances, as well as a pass accuracy of 88.89%. Of course, Todibo is more than a replacement for Lascelles in terms of quality and would be fighting alongside Schar and Botman for a starting spot which would make this a good swap.
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While many of Newcastle’s players were celebrating their progress, 2022/23 was a tough season for Jamal Lewis who barely cracked 100 minutes played across the campaign. With just four appearances across all competitions — two in the Premier League combining for a total of nine minutes — Lewis was an unused substitute 23 times for Newcastle and had to watch on as Dan Burn and Matt Targett were favoured by Howe. Now 25, it feels as though Lewis’ career has stagnated and he is being linked with a move away from Newcastle this summer, but it may be worth the Magpies keeping hold of him for a bit longer. A year loan may work best for both parties as Lewis gets a chance to return to action consistently and may still have a chance at breaking through at Newcastle the following campaign. Or he may play himself into a preferably move away.
Speaking of Matt Targett, the 27-year-old may have been ahead of Jamal Lewis in the pecking order but his future is also in doubt less than two years after joining Newcastle. Targett was one of the arrivals in Howe’s first transfer window, initially on loan from Aston Villa with the deal made permanent last summer. There were promising signs at the start of his time at St James’ Park but Targett also struggled to dislodge Dan Burn as Howe’s first-choice left-back. Although he ended the campaign with 19 appearances, his 17 in the Premier League brought just over 600 minutes and there were only eight starts across all competitions.
Newcastle are on the lookout for a new left-back this summer and they’ve been heavily linked with Kieran Tierney, who may be on the move from Arsenal. Tierney would also be able to provide cover as a centre-back if Howe were to ever use a back three, a good backup to Dan Burn.
On the other side of the defence, Newcastle have a secure right-back in Kieran Trippier and the 32-year-old has made it tough for anyone else in his position to get a look in. Last season, Javier Manquillo was restricted to just six appearances across all competitions, with 90 of his 190 minutes coming in the FA Cup. The Spaniard was also an unused substitute 29 times, showing that while Howe values him as a replacement, he’s not really favoured as someone to come onto the pitch.
Of course, Trippier isn’t really a player that will come off too often, but you need someone ready to replace him if he does and should he be injured or need a rest. But it doesn’t feel like that’s Manquillo. Newcastle have Emil Krafth and young Harrison Ashby who can both provide backup for Trippier, so now might be the best time to say goodbye to Manquillo.
Isaac Hayden spent last season on loan at Norwich but played just 14 times in the Championship as he suffered with injury issues, a recurring problem with his knee. Now back at Newcastle, it’s hard to see Hayden finding his way back into the Magpies midfield, especially as they build their Champions League squad. Hayden was a useful player when Newcastle were trying to stay in the Premier League but now they are looking to keep themselves near the top, it may be best for the two parties to split.
For Jeff Hendrick, see Isaac Hayden. Hendrick was also on loan in the Championship last season, but he played 45 times for Reading as they suffered relegation. His second consecutive loan spell, Hendrick will return to Newcastle this summer and surely look for a permanent move away.