Football Features

The moves Newcastle United are making to challenge the Premier League ‘Big Six’

By Ben Green

Published: 15:35, 25 June 2022

Newcastle United are preparing for their first full season under Eddie Howe things couldn’t be going any better.

Of course, the 2022/23 campaign will also be the first full season under their new ownership, and the financial backing brought has helped Howe set good foundations for the year ahead.

Howe took charge of Newcastle in November 2021 with the club looking destined for relegation but, backed by his new owners, the former Bournemouth boss used the January transfer window to help his transformation of the Magpies. Five new signings were made with Bruno Guimaraes, Chris Wood, Kieran Trippier, Dan Burn and Matt Targett all coming on, the latter on loan from Aston Villa.

Bruno was the undeniably star man, transforming Newcastle’s midfield, but all five arrivals played their parts in lifting Howe’s side up to 11th in the Premier League table come the end of the campaign, just two points outside the top half – a remarkable turnaround.

But Newcastle are not deeming that a success, rather a platform on which to build their goal of rising further up the Premier League table and a potential return to European football.

New faces

Matt Targett was the first arrival of the summer, making his loan move from Villa permanent, after an impressive start to life at St James’ Park.

In 16 appearances for Newcastle in the Premier League, the 26-year-old made 41 tackles, the eighth-best return in the division from his Magpies debut to the end of the campaign. He also ranked in the top 10 for interceptions (25) and committed just nine fouls, averaging one every 160 minutes.

But Targett was also decent in attack, creating 19 chances and attempting 74 crosses while at Newcastle, with 1.51 Expected Assists.

Newcastle’s main focus point at the start of the transfer window is clearly their defence and the second signing of the summer was goalkeeper Nick Pope.

Following Burnley’s relegation from the Premier League, clubs were understandably going to be circling around their better players and Pope was arguably the best. If it weren’t for Pope, Burnley would have been relegated long before the final day of the season. Funnily enough, it was Newcastle who relegated Burnley, allowing them to pick up Pope just over a month later.

While both Martin Dubravka and Karl Darlow were decent enough goalkeepers for last season, Newcastle wanted someone to truly protect their goal and Pope will surely fancy his chances of being no.1. The Englishman was one of the busiest goalkeepers in the Premier League last season, having to make 121 saves as Burnley’s goal was peppered by opponents.

Pope also conceded 47 goals at an average of 1.31 per 90 minutes, fewer than Dubravka’s 1.35. However, it’s worth noting that Dubravka did prevent more goals than Pope last season, conceding 35 from 35.33 Expected Goals on Target Conceded – one of just 10 goalkeepers to have a positive prevention record (one of just four when you refine the list to goalkeepers that had xGOTC over 5.0). Pope, in contrast, conceded 1.59 more goals than expected.

Nick Pope’s Shots on Target Faced in the 2021/22 Premier League

Who could be next?

But Newcastle aren’t done there. First of all, the Magpies appear extremely close to another defence-bolstering signing in Sven Botman.

Newcastle had been linked with Botman in January but could not get their man at the time. However, they haven’t had to wait long for him as the club had reportedly agreed a deal with Lille to sign the centre-back for £35m, with personal terms to be finalised after a medical.

And the Magpies are also being linked with a move for Manchester City centre-back Nathan Ake who hasn’t been getting much game time at the Etihad since his move from Bournemouth. In the two years since signing for Man City, Ake has played just 40 times for Man City across all competitions with 24 of those coming in the Premier League for a total of 1,717 minutes.

Newcastle are favourites with Sky Bet to sign Ake this summer, though the odds are still 3/1.

With the defence possibly sorted after that, Newcastle will then look to enhance their attack, and they have long been linked with a move for Dominic Calvert-Lewin.

The English striker had a very good start to the 2021/22 Premier League campaign, netting three goals in three games before fracturing his toe. The injury kept Calvert-Lewin out until the New Year and he struggled to re-find his form before finally scoring two goals towards the end of the campaign to help Everton secure safety.

With Calvert-Lewin, Newcastle will be hoping they can help the English striker return to his best, and they are odds-on favourite to secure his signing at 4/5 with Sky Bet.

Moving ever so slightly back, Newcastle are also reportedly looking at Lyon attacking midfielder Lucas Paqueta. The Brazilian was directly involved in 13 goals in Ligue 1 last season, scoring nine and providing a further six assists, and also played as centre-forward on occasion which would help cover Newcastle’s attacking problems.

A battling midfielder, on top of his goals and assists, Paqueta also took 87 shots, made 68 tackles and 189 ball recoveries, so could also fit in alongside Bruno and Joelinton.

Once again, Newcastle are the favourites to sign Lucas Paqueta in the summer transfer window, with Sky Bet offering odds of 4/6 for the deal to go through.

Should Newcastle want Paqueta for his attacking skills, Howe’s side are also 4/1 favourites with Sky Bet to sign Conor Gallagher in the summer transfer window.

The Englishman goes into the summer off the back of an excellent season with Crystal Palace, being named the club’s Player of the Year for his role in an exciting first season at Selhurst Park for Patrick Vieira. However, there is a very good chance that Gallagher may stay at Chelsea to contest for a spot in their own first team this season.

How Newcastle could line up in 2022/23