Newcastle United Winter Transfer Window Verdict 2022/23 | THT Opinions

The Hard Tackle analyses the overall performance of Newcastle United in the January transfer window and gives its verdict on their latest recruitment drive.

Premier League clubs, including Newcastle United, splurged the cash once again during the January transfer window, demonstrating England’s elites’ unparalleled financial power. Bankrolled by the club’s owners, more than £700 million was spent on permanent new arrivals into the Premier League, with the division outspending the rest of Europe’s top five leagues combined by a huge margin.

Newcastle United, who have the wealthiest owners in world football, were supposed to turn the world upside down with their spending this month, much like Chelsea, as they find themselves ahead of schedule and in with a real chance of finishing in the top four and lifting some silverware in the form of the Carabao Cup along the way. However, the Magpies had a pretty quiet January and did very little business throughout the window.

They did make some movement late in the window, signing Anthony Gordon in a £45 million deal from Everton, making him the club’s second most expensive signing of all time, a piece of business that has drawn mixed reactions from the St. James’ Park faithful.

So far, the supporters have embraced and openly waxed lyrical about the majority of the decisions taken by their new owners in past transfer windows. After all, they have barely put a foot wrong in the transfer market since taking over. But this one has divided opinions, with the hefty price tag being frowned upon.

It is worth remembering, though, that English tax has been included; there are not many 21-year-olds with as much Premier League experience as Gordon who are attainable for less £20 million to £25 million, while the added cost is for the talent ceiling. Second, the England Under-21 international has raw attributes that will excite the St. James’ Park crowd.

Elsewhere, exciting Australian prodigy Garang Kuol signed from Central Coast Mariners before being loaned to Hearts to get minutes and experience under his belt, while Harrison Ashby has signed in a cut-price deal from West Ham United to act as a cover for influential Kieran Trippier initially, with a view to learn from the latter before eventually replacing him in the future.

In terms of exits, Chris Wood and Jonjo Shelvey have both left for Nottingham Forest, while Karl Darlow also departed on loan to Hull City. With the transfer window now done and dusted, the Hard Tackle now runs the rule over Newcastle United and how they fared in the market while also giving its final verdict on the overall business.

INS: Garang Kuol, Anthony Gordon, and Harrison Ashby

OUTS: Daniel Langley (loan), Garang Kuol (loan), Chris Wood (loan), Niall Brookwell (loan), Karl Darlow (loan), Jonjo Shelvey

MVA (Most Valuable Addition): Anthony Gordon

With offensive depth urgently needed following the departure of Chris Wood, Newcastle went ahead and signed 21-year-old versatile attacker Anthony Gordon in a deal worth up to £45 million from Everton, a signing that has divided the whole Newcastle fanbase. The Magpies will pay £40 million as an upfront instalment plus £5 million in add-ons. The Toffees will also obtain a sell-on clause.

The England Under-21 international notably enjoyed a real breakout campaign last term for Everotn. He amassed four goals and two assists in the top flight after being thrust into the fray by both Rafael Benitez and Frank Lampard. He popped up with some vital goals last term to keep Everton up.

Such standout form ensured that the speedster also caught the eye of Chelsea, who saw bids worth over £60 million rejected by Everton. The Magpies were also in talks for Gordon last summer, with Eddie Howe understood to be a long-term admirer of his talents. Sporting director Dan Ashworth was also eager to secure him, but the Merseysiders stated the England youth international was “not for sale”.

Newcastle’s winter swoop ended months of speculation linking Gordon with a transfer away from Goodison Park. The transfer has sparked debate among the Newcastle fanbase about Gordon’s behaviour at his previous club, having arguably shown a level of disrespect to take such drastic action as missing training sessions in a bid to seal a move elsewhere.

The 21-year-old’s antics on the pitch and some excessive diving, in particular, against Newcastle United in a Premier League encounter earlier this season have not gone down well with some sections of Toon faithful.

Statistically, he is also underwhelming, to say the least. Gordon picked up more yellow cards (7) than goals (3) and assists (0) combined and has created one big chance for the Toffees this season. His shot-creating actions, dribble success percentage, and end product have been dismal. Overall, in 76 games for Everton, the player has managed to net only seven goals and provide three assists.

However, stats do not always tell you the full story and do not take into account the structural flaws. Although it has proven a frustrating campaign thus far, Gordon is a highly-rated young attacker with bags of potential and has the talent to succeed at Newcastle United and become an important player for the Magpies if he can add more goals and assists to his game.

Indeed, Gordon clocked a speed of 36.61 kilometers per hour in the Premier League this season, which is only slightly bettered by new Chelsea man Mykhaylo Mudryk, who registered 36.63 kilometers per hour.

This means he has the electric speed to terrorise defenders, coupled with traditional winger attributes like whipping in first-time crosses and shooting at high volume. He uses his quick bursts of acceleration and ability to deviate defenders with his body feints, and canny flicks to cut inside before getting off the shots.

He could be utilised as a wide forward, attacking midfielder, or secondary striker. His direct and dynamic style of play could help to stretch opposing defences and create space for his teammates.

In addition to his technical qualities and two-footedness, Gordon is known for his high work rate and willingness to press opponents, making him a valuable asset in the final third. Overall, his style of play can be described as dynamic, creative, and direct. He could provide a new dimension to Newcastle’s attack.

Howe does have a reputation for getting the best out of his attackers too, with the likes of Miguel Almiron, Callum Wilson, and Joelinton all performing at a high level at the moment. At just 21 years of age, Gordon certainly has plenty of time to improve and develop his game.

Newcastle have been masters of the dark arts this season, from faking injuries to unnecessary clashes to malicious time wasting and, probably best of all, mocking other players as they are red-carded, and arguing with the referee that there are 12 opposition players on the pitch.

Gordon also has these intangible qualities, and his attitude, if directed the right way, could come in handy for Howe and make him the jigsaw piece of this Newcastle squad.

Shrewd Work (A Departure That Is Ideal For All Parties): Chris Wood

Earlier in the January transfer window, Wood joined Nottingham Forest until the end of the season to help with their battle for Premier League survival. According to Sky Sports, the move can become permanent for £15 million due to a conditional obligation that runs until the summer of 2024.

While it has remained unclear as to what those conditions may be, journalist Ben Jacobs stated that this clause is not conditional on Forest staying up, as many would have thought, but that it will be easy to trigger and likely just based upon him playing a certain number of games. If true, Newcastle United have driven a hard bargain here.

It’s fair to say that Newcastle United overpaid for Chris Wood. His return of four goals in 34 Premier League outings for the Magpies was obviously not good enough for a £25 million Premier League striker.

However, in hindsight, the signing turned out to be a successful one. Newcastle were dead in the water last January, deep in the relegation zone under Eddie Howe, with things not clicking right away, aggravated by the fact that talismanic striker Callum Wilson was sidelined with a long-term injury.

The Magpies were desperate for a striker. And given that they were battling Burnley for relegation at the time, it was a smart move to weaken them and fill that void by exercising his release clause.

Newcastle United knew then that they weren’t getting a glamorous or a young star but a solid, Premier League-proven player with relegation battle experience who would be able to come in and do a job up top, and so it proved.

His two goals last season, against Wolverhampton Wanderers and Southampton, were absolutely crucial in winning much-needed points. And his hold-up play in terms of bringing other, more creative players, such as Saint-Maximin, into the game was huge in order to climb their way up the table.

Wood’s big physical presence in the box and aerial prowess assisted in defending against set pieces, and perhaps most importantly, he showed himself to have the belly for the fight that Newcastle were embroiled in.

However, Eddie Howe’s Newcastle have moved on from that style of play this season, adopting a more fluid counter-pressing setup requiring a pacy, technical striker up front to work the channels and combine with other attackers around him, meaning Wood was proving to be a liability to the team. Additionally, he missed some absolute sitters at big moments, notably during the 2-1 FA Cup crash-out against Sheffield Wednesday.

Wood was not the first-choice striker at the club anyway, with Alexander Isak and Callum Wilson preferred when fit. The New Zealand international was deemed surplus to requirements, so offloading his sizable wages whilst recouping the bulk of their initial investment is a shrewd piece of business.

The Big Miss (A Player Who Should Have Left): Ryan Fraser

While all eyes were on potential incomings at Newcastle United this month, it was also an opportune time for manager Eddie Howe to shift some of the ‘deadwood’ from his squad, with there undoubtedly a handful of fringe assets that could have been let go.

While they were successful in getting rid of Wood, other peripheral players such as Matt Ritchie, Jamaal Lascelles, and Javier Manquillo still remain at the club. However, out of all the players in Newcastle’s squad heading into January, Fraser looked like the most likely to leave and would have benefitted by doing so.

There were suggestions that the diminutive winger had been keen to move on last summer only for the northeast side’s failure to land a new winger having put paid to an exit. Since then, Fraser has gone on to start just three league games this season, failing to provide a single goal or assist in the league this season.

Fraser’s tenure at Newcastle has not particularly done him any favors, with just three goals and six assists to show across the 59 appearances he has made. Those struggles have ensured that the Scotland international is now seemingly surplus to requirements under Howe, having been unable to enjoy a consistent run in the side since his free transfer move from Bournemouth in 2020.

His lack of productivity in front of the goal leaves his spot in the squad vulnerable. And Miguel Almiron’s progression and Gordon’s addition will surely see his opportunities to prove himself pushed even further back. While it may be difficult to leave a club on the rise like Newcastle, at the age of 28, perhaps it would have been sensible for Fraser to leave and pick up regular minutes elsewhere.

Final Verdict: Slightly Underwhelming

It was not a perfect transfer window for the Toon as they failed to add another midfielder on transfer deadline day. The Magpies were known to be looking a long-term heir to Kieran Trippier at right-back this month. Trippier has been nothing short of spectacular since arriving from Atletico Madrid.

However, now aged 32, Eddie Howe and co. must have one eye on the future. So, Harrison Ashby’s signing for a measly £3 million could even turn out to be a steal if he ends up replacing Trippier in the long term. However, it was a hit-and-miss window for Newcastle as they only added Anthony Gordon and Ashby in the final days of the transfer window and now look light in certain areas of the pitch, particularly in the middle of the park.

Jonjo Shelvey left the building in the final hours of Tuesday’s deadline day, bidding farewell to Newcastle on the St. James’ Park turf at half-time. It was an appealing proposal from free-spending Nottingham Forest, a lucrative two-and-a-half-year deal with a substantial wage increase.

Newcastle, for one, got their end of the bargain, having recouped most of the £12 million fee they paid to bring him from Swansea City in 2016 in the first place, despite him being in the last six months of his current contract and boasting a poor recent injury record.

The former Liverpool playmaker provided excellent service for seven years for the Magpies. But it was an exit the Toon could have done without, especially considering his proven Premier League experience, range of passing, and ability to control games that no one else in the Newcastle squad has bar Bruno Guimaraes.

Moreover, the midfielder’s Nottingham Forest move further depletes Howe’s midfield ahead of a crucial Premier League period. Eddie Howe was said to be keen to add strength and depth to his midfield options. But Newcastle did not come close to bringing in a central midfielder on loan in the wake of Shelvey’s surprise exit.

Moves for Sheffield United’s Sander Berge and Chelsea’s Conor Gallagher did not materialise. They were unable to negotiate a loan-to-buy deal for the former with the Blades that would have allowed the club to comply with the current financial fair play regulations.

Sheffield United were also reported to be unwilling to agree to any kind of loan deal that did not have an obligation to buy as they required instant cash to lift their transfer embargo. Meanwhile, Chelsea were simply not interested in entertaining any potential deals that would strengthen one of their direct top-four rivals.

Howe is already facing a midfield reshuffle following Bruno Guimaraes’s red card against Southampton, with the Brazilian set to miss Premier League matches with West Ham, Liverpool, and Bournemouth before returning for the Carabao Cup final.

Some Newcastle fans believe that this transfer window was a missed opportunity to splash the cash and cement their top-four position, especially since all of the clubs hunting them for the Champions League bolstered heavily while they essentially stood still.

What’s more, the Magpies missed out on signing a host of promising young players for the future in the form of Ivan Fresneda, Angelo Gabriel, Andrey Santos, Maximo Perrone, and Matheus Franca, all of whom were linked with a move to St. James’ Park throughout the window. Santos, for one, was one of Newcastle’s top targets, but Chelsea snapped him up. The same thing happened in the case of Perrone.

But then again, Newcastle have spent close to £250 million on new players since last year’s takeover. And this window was a bit of a statement to the whole transfer market world, they are not opting for a scattergun approach and will certainly not overpay for their top targets to get short-term success like Chelsea.

Despite the Magpies being miles ahead in their current long-term project to bring silverware and compete with the elite, they are not getting ahead of themselves in the transfer market. They are not pushing the boat to get those ready-made players, instead going for those rising stars, such as Gordon. That too only the right characters who would fit Eddie Howe’s coaching profile.

Spending a lot in the winter transfer window is far from a guarantee of better performance and more points. The purchases made in January are often aimed at solving short-term problems, meaning they are not as well thought through and do not always have the desired positive effect.

We all remember the big signings having an immediate on-the-pitch impact. But we do not always look at the other end of the spectrum. All in all, Newcastle have played their cards well in this overachievers’ half-season and have had a reasonable January window. Gordon should be a real asset to their style of play, while they have reduced their wage bill and made room in the squad while still keeping the powder dry for a marquee summer signing.

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