Three potential January signings for Newcastle United | THT Opinions

The Hard Tackle looks at three potential January signings for Newcastle United as Eddie Howe and co. explore the market this month.

Newcastle are continuing to be the feel-good story of the 2022–23 season. Although it was expected that Toon Army will eventually climb up the ladder as the Tyneside club are now backed by Saudi cash. None would have predicted the road to becoming a top-four challenger to be so quick.

With St. James’ Park transformed back into a fortress of the good old days and the atmosphere bouncing in full roar, Newcastle’s fans are enjoying a dream season so far, with their team involved in the fight for top-four Champions League places while also having a realistic opportunity of winning a trophy in the EFL Cup. And an even more pleasing aspect of their rise is that the Magpies are yet to dig deep into the new owners’ bottomless barrel of wealth.

While Newcastle have been linked with a whole host of big-money signings, the Magpies must get the balance right with their transfer business going into the January window as they look to avoid upsetting the apple cart and the harmony in the dressing room while also adding quality to their ranks.

Last winter, the Toon signed the likes of Kieran Trippier, Dan Burn, Bruno Guimaraes, Matt Targett, and Chris Wood. However, the urgency levels are lower this time around, and they won’t have an open bag when it comes to funds since the gap on the balance sheet created by the previous owner’s lack of spending has been addressed in recent windows.

Signings were desperately needed 12 months ago, and although there is a case to be made that Newcastle must strengthen from a position of strength now and in light of injuries, the Magpies are in a totally different scenario.

Eddie Howe’s side currently sits third at Christmas after losing just one of their opening 18 games and are unbeaten in their last 13 league games prior to welcoming Fulham to St. James Park this weekend (W8, D5). Quality over quantity and bolstering a few key areas of the squad will be the route forward for Dan Ashworth and co. as the Newcastle hierarchy looks to sustainably back Howe.

As it stands, the Magpies will qualify for Champions League football if they can consolidate their top-four spot over the rest of their top-flight campaign, and January could be the perfect opportunity to add depth to key areas in the squad in order to fulfill their present objective while also building for the future.

With that in mind, The Hard Tackle looks at the players who would not only come in and improve them here and now but could prove to be vital building blocks in the long run as they look to assemble a world-beater squad capable of challenging for major honours in the near future.

Ivan Fresneda

The first name on our list is a highly coveted full-back prodigy, Ivan Fresneda, who has already been linked with a move to Newcastle in recent weeks, and he could prove to be a shrewd piece of business from the club.

The Magpies are currently in the market for a right-back in January as they look for a better backup for star defender Kieran Trippier. With Emil Krafth sustaining a horrific knee injury in August, Howe’s options have been constrained in that area of the pitch this season.

The other right-back option, Javi Manquillo, has rarely featured under Howe and will most certainly be moved on in the forthcoming transfer windows, provided they sign a better alternative. While the former Marseille man is defensively sound, his positional awareness and attacking qualities have left a lot to be desired.

While Trippier, who is statistically the best crosser of the ball and one of the best creators in the Premier League this season, has completely transformed the right-back position at St James’ Park, almost acting as the team’s key playmaker and crossing winger at times, his peak will not last long at 32 years old.

Thus, the Magpies want to sign someone young who can come in, settle into Howe’s system and coaching methods, and not only provide sufficient cover for Trippier but also be able to learn and progress alongside one of the Premier League’s best full-backs at the moment, with a view to ultimately taking over Trippier’s place as a starter in the coming years.

As such, Leeds United’s Cody Drameh and West Ham’s Harrison Ashby have also emerged as potential market options to strengthen the right of defence. Howe has also previously noted the need to add prodigious youth to his squad in order to bring the average age of the squad down, and at just 18 with top-flight experience in one of Europe’s top-five leagues, Fresneda fits that requirement perfectly.

Formerly a Real Madrid academy youth player, the 18-year-old has only ever made eleven first-team appearances in his career after rising through the ranks at his current club, and his rock-solid performances so far suggest he is a star of the future.

Regarded as one of Europe’s top emerging prospects in his position, he delivered an impressive display against Real Madrid recently, notably stopping Vinicius Jr. in his tracks with well-timed challenges on multiple occasions.

As a modern defender, one would think it was obvious that you needed to be a good tackler and crosser to fulfil the role. That is not always the case, though. It’s certainly the case with Fresneda, who has put up some impressive numbers for Valladolid in his breakout season.

Despite his relative inexperience, Fresneda has ranked among the top 1% of full-backs for tackles (3.5), while being in the top 7% for dribblers tackled, and clearances (2.92). In addition, he averages 1.57 interceptions per game and is in the top 10% for key passes among his positional peers.

His reading of the game and ability to link the defence with Valladolid’s attack make him an attractive asset for the Magpies. He has also already showcased his ability as a swashbuckling fullback. His meat map proves his natural ability to dart up and down the flank.

Like Trippier, the combative ace is also able to offer real quality in an attacking sense, as he ranks in the top 16 percent for progressive passes received to illustrate his creative flair. Although the sample size is small, his high defensive work rate and tenacity, coupled with his offensive promise as a creator and ball carrier, make him a wanted commodity.

Given that Trippier is making the most key passes per game (2.6) and boasts a high average of tackles per game (2.5) at Newcastle this season, it’s easy to see why the club has earmarked Fresneda as a potential successor for the Englishman.

It’s no wonder he has also emerged on the radar of Atletico Madrid, with Diego Simeone, a.k.a. El Cholo, still seeking a Trippier replacement. While Fresneda checks all the boxes, the Toon are likely to face competition from more top European clubs as they look to finally seal the deal for Real Valladolid’s highly-rated defender.

Along with Newcastle United, Juventus, Borussia Dortmund, Inter, AC Milan, and Arsenal have all registered their interest in the promising right-back. There were reports from Spain earlier this month suggesting that the Tynesiders had made a move for Fresneda, with some branding the situation as “a done deal.” However, those reports have cooled in recent days for some reason.

In our view, Newcastle would do well to win this transfer battle, as they will get their hands on a definite gem here. Maybe providing him with the best and safest route to regular first-team Premier League football could do the trick.

Youssoufa Moukoko

The dominance of a certain European powerhouse in football is quite often judged by the deadliness and stardom of the strike force. They are, after all, the protagonists, game-changing clutch players, and they bag you those all-important goals and assists.

Examples include Barcelona’s MSN (Messi-Suarez-Neymar), Real Madrid’s BBC (Bale-Benzema-Cristiano Ronaldo), and Liverpool’s Salah-Firmino-Mane. They may also be found in duos, such as Lewandowski-Muller, Kane-Son, or Lukaku-Martinez. As Newcastle looks to break into the elite tier, they may be about to assemble a generation-defining strike force.

Previous generations have been distinguished by target men, marksmen, and poachers, and it looks the so-called “complete forwards” will define the next generation. Football appears to be shifting toward teams led by a striker capable of doing it all.

Erling Haaland is your archetypal player in the role we can only define as the “ultimate forward,” who can do multiple jobs, from front-foot pressing to score and create goals, and there are more and more strikers of this prototype are bursting onto the scene.

Newcastle have already got one of them in Swedish sensation Alexander Isak, who is very much cut from the same cloth, and a mix between a speedster, a target man, and a poacher all rolled into one. That’s why the latest transfer rumour surrounding the Magpies is so interesting.

Indeed, the Magpies are interested in Borussia Dortmund’s wonderkid, Youssoufa Moukoko. With 149 appearances for the German club to his name across their senior and youth levels, the 18-year-old has proven to be an absolute goal machine, having scored a prolific 153 goals and delivered 35 assists in the process, which is no mean feat considering he was playing with players above his age most of the time. 

Furthermore, Moukoko has found the net six times and provided four assists in 14 Bundesliga appearances for Dortmund in his breakout season. Gifted with innate finishing potency, the youngster also boasts a rocket of a shot – primarily with his stronger left foot but equally accurate on his right.

While Germany had a World Cup to forget, Moukoko created his own piece of history in Qatar. The teenager was introduced off the bench in the defeat to Japan and became the youngest German to ever play at a World Cup at the age of 18 years and three days.

The 18-year-old is out of contract at Signal Iduna Park in the summer, and it seems as though he won’t be penning a new deal and will move to another club for nothing.

Of course, he’ll command an exorbitant amount on wages, agent fees, and additional clauses if he were to sign for a new club on a Bosman transfer, with reports claiming Newcastle have even made a lucrative package, offering a signing-on bonus of €30 million on top of a long-term contract worth £150,000 per week in a bid to fend off some of their rivals.

Eddie Howe’s men are attempting to comply with financial fair play regulations, so a move for one of Europe’s hottest commodities on a free transfer would certainly represent a fantastic piece of business. Adding Moukoko alongside Isak could provide Newcastle with two of Europe’s most coveted attackers for the next 10 years. And that’s some future building.

It goes without saying, Newcastle will have to beat off some serious competition and an appealing pitch from Dan Ashworth if they are to land the in-demand striker. As it stands, Chelsea, Manchester United, and Barcelona are all rumoured to be considering similar moves, mindful of the possibility of capturing one of Europe’s best talents for free.

However, Newcastle have become one of the most exciting destinations for footballers over the past year following the change in ownership at the club. They are making huge strides on the pitch under the tutelage of Howe and are committed to further improving their roster in order to reach higher heights in the coming years. (This is your pitch, Dan.)

Moises Caicedo

The final name on our list is perhaps not feasible in January, but Newcastle should do everything in their power to make it possible either this month or in the summer. We are talking about none other than Brighton’s in-demand midfielder Moises Caicedo, who has become another highly sought-after player in the market following a string of stellar displays for club and country this season.

The Magpies have been dealt a big blow with veteran playmaker Jonjo Shelvey ruled out for up to eight weeks after yet another injury setback, jeopardising his future at the club. Shelvey’s injury record has certainly worsened in recent years, with recurring problems taking their toll on the midfielder, who had only recently recovered from a hamstring injury sustained in pre-season.

Therefore, Newcastle could look to freshen up the engine room and add some new intensity. This has sparked a flurry of speculation, with the much-maligned and untrustworthy British tabloid Daily Mail reporting that the Magpies are considering Jorginho as a replacement.

While the 31-year-old Italian international is a renowned orchestrator from their deep-lying midfield roles in the Shelvey mold, Newcastle’s owners have a clear recruitment strategy.They’re not searching for blockbuster names with huge reputations. That would just make things worse.

Instead, they want emerging talents who can grow and develop at St James’ Park, becoming the backbone of a squad that is being geared up for years of success.

Bruno Guimaraes came in January and is only 25 years old. Sven Botman is 22 years old and has the potential to become one of the Premier League’s best center-backs.

Newcastle have a core of players who are excellent now and have scope to get better. So, even a layman could tell Jorginho clearly doesn’t fit the profile thanks to his groundbreaking wages.

As such, names such as Nice’s Khephren Thuram, Borussia Monchengladbach’s Kouadio Kone, Leicester’s Youri Tielemans, and Ajax’s Edson Alvarez have also been listed as players currently on Newcastle’s radar. Who could have seen this coming when Steve Bruce was scrambling put every penny possible in the building together to try and sign Hamza Choudhury on loan? A stunning rags to riches transformation.

Anyways, the standout name on the wishlist remains Moises Caicedo, who has cemented himself as one of Europe’s most exciting defensive midfield prospects.

Embed from Getty Images

For anyone that still considers themselves unfamiliar with what makes Caicedo one of the very best defensive midfielders in the Premier League, his all-conquering display in Brighton’s 3-0 victory against Liverpool last night was an insight into why he is a master of his position, as he pocketed the entire Liverpool midfield single-handedly.

The Santo Domingo-born enforcer has made 20 appearances in all competitions this season, scoring once and claiming an assist. FBRef has detailed that Caicedo has averaged around 2.7 tackles per Premier League match and ranks in the top 7% for the percentage of dribblers tackled, and aerial battles win percentage, demonstrating his ability to gain possession for his side utilizing his tenacity and intense pressing.

The numbers emphasise the 21-year-old’s incredible ability to mop up any signs of danger, but his ability to pick up the ball in the first phase while remaining press-resistant and ensuring Brighton can transition further forward without breaking a sweat is an indicator of his on-the-ball qualities.

Ball circulation is also one of Caicedo’s main strengths, as he has recorded an impressive 86.3% pass success rate at the heart of Brighton’s midfield while ranking in the top 96th percentile for % long passes completed and in the top 86th percentile for through balls amongst his positional peers, so he can even act as a tempo setter if needed.

So, the 21-year-old would be comfortable sitting at the base of the midfield unit and providing ball security, allowing the likes of Bruno Guimaraes and Joe Willock to express themselves in more advanced areas. But Caicedo is also adept enough with the ball at his feet to find teammates in pockets of space to exploit, as well as make late runs into the box and chip in with a goal or two, as shown when he plays in the No. 8 box-to-box role for the Seagulls.

This kind of versatility and suitability for a high-tempo system will synchronise very well with Eddie Howe’s impressive counter-pressing setup at St James’ Park, which relies heavily on a workhorse midfield making life difficult for the opposition and blocking the passage to their backline.

Nevertheless, any deal to bring in the Brighton star will not be cheap. Recent reports claimed that it might cost any willing bidders as much as £70 million to land the sought-after talent. And that would still be a bargain given that Brighton scooped up over £60 million for Marc Cucurella.

While a winter swoop looks very unlikely, as Roberto De Zerbi’s side will definitely not want to lose their prized asset in the middle of the season, Newcastle would do well to revisit their interest and launch an ambitious swoop for Caicedo in the summer.

Leave Comment


Welcome Back!

Login to your account below

Retrieve your password

Please enter your username or email address to reset your password.