With just two weeks until the Premier League kicks off, Newcastle have been strong during the transfer window. The additions of attacking midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum and striker Aleksandar Mitrovic, along with defender Jamaal Lascelles and goalkeeper Karl Darlow, who spent last season on loan at Nottingham Forest, have no doubt strengthened what was a weak squad last season.
So, where are the Magpies right now? Well, in short, a better place than the start and, especially the end, of last season. Last year’s run up to the start of the season was a shambles for the Northern club. It seemed that every target on Newcastle’s radar shunned the Magpies and joined other clubs. That elusive line was nowhere in sight for any of our targets. I remember writing off their season with 3 weeks still to go to the first match. The latter half of last season was an absolute disgrace for all concerned at the club. Ending on the final day of the season, Newcastle just managed to dig themselves out of the relegation hole by two measly points, with a surprising win at West Ham.
So, have Newcastle turned a corner and learned from their mistakes? It seems so. Mike Ashley has brought in a coach with plenty of experience in Steve McClaren, and is backing him to the hilt. Though, they aren’t ready just yet. A winger, another striker and two defenders (one being Mbemba) is what I think the Toon need in order to be ready to compete this upcoming season. Mbemba is due to sign anytime soon, but another target would be a great partner to him. Aymen Abdennour. The 25-year-old Monaco defender is a powerful left-sided player, who can play at full-back or centre-back, and loves to help his team from an attacking point of view. At 6ft 2, he is a commanding defender, which Newcastle have been missing since Fabricio Coloccini went “missing” and Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa was shipped out to Roma. Apparently, Barcelona are sniffing around, but the Tunisian has an interest in Newcastle, if they can meet his high demands.
Moving onto a surprise target which just emerged this past week, Xherdan Shaqiri. A short, stocky attacking midfielder, Shaqiri is an interesting prospect and one that would improve Newcastle’s squad significantly. Able to play across all three attacking midfield positions, as a wide player, an inside forward or as an attacking No. 10, Shaqiri is supremely versatile. It is no secret that Newcastle have struggled to provide service to the forwards at the club in recent seasons and Shaqiri, along with the arrival of Wijnaldum, could transform Newcastle’s attacking options. Newcastle face competition from Everton and Schalke, but if they can tempt Shaqiri to the club, he could turn out to be the catalyst to their attacking problems at the Toon.
Finally, I move on to Charlie Austin. A bit of a risk at £15m in my opinion, which is why Newcastle are stalling at the moment. Scorer of 20 goals last season for QPR, this striker would be a very welcome addition to the Toon, with goals in recent seasons hard to come by, partly down to injuries and lack of service to the forwards. QPR are holding out for “in excess of £15m” despite their current financial situation. Finishing fourth top goalscorer in the Premier League last season, QPR say they have rejected a £12m bid (presumably from Newcastle). I think Newcastle have their valuation about right. But, over £3m, why be picky? He’s a proven Premier League goalscorer, a misery for defenders on his day, and would fit well alongside Mitrovic or Ayoze Perez up front. I say take a punt, we’re just crying out for a proven home-grown goalscorer.
If these targets join Newcastle United this season, they will surely be in a commanding position to challenge for what Mike Ashley wants; a top 8 finish, and a cup. As long as the club continue recruiting, these are relatively exciting times for Toon fans, compared with the misery they have endured for too long.