The Hard Tackle lists three players Newcastle United should sign from relegated clubs, including top target James Maddison.
After celebrating on the St. James’ Park pitch with his players, Newcastle United boss Eddie Howe was asked what the targets had been back in August. And qualifying for the Champions League was not even in Howe’s thoughts at the start of the season. And rightly so; Newcastle were in the relegation zone when Howe was appointed manager.
He guided the club to comfortable safety by finishing 11th and rekindling hope. The plan for this season was to avoid another relegation battle, maybe secure a strong top-half finish, and then, perhaps in another couple of years, think about trying to challenge for Europe and grow the club slowly and organically.
However, he has miraculously brought Champions League football back to St. James’ Park and guided the club to a first cup final in 22 years in just one season later. Players have overachieved, and the new owners have enabled them to spend £250 million. But to give it some context, that is the same amount of money that Tottenham have invested in the same time span with rather less successful results.
With the help of some astute signings such as England right-back Kieran Trippier, Brazil midfielder Bruno Guimaraes, and defender Dan Burn, the fog that had shrouded the Tyneside club has finally lifted.
Preparations for next season must start early given the much more established cartel clubs, Liverpool and Chelsea, will come strong with a fresh batch of exciting signings. Newcastle will need to spend heavily again this summer to strengthen their squad ahead of their return to the Champions League. And they already have their eyes on several potential targets.
However, having spent around £250 million over the first three transfer windows since their Saudi Arabian owners arrived, the Magpies are wary of encountering Financial Fair Play (FFP) problems and the fact that they may have to tighten the purse strings. They can only push the figure to £100 million, including player sales, this summer.
Many people expected the spending to get heavier, and supporters had expected a summer of record investment; however, the club’s FFP calculations allow for a spend of £70–80 million, according to the Telegraph’s Luke Edwards. The Athletic have claimed a different budget allocation for Eddie Howe and his recruitment, with an estimation they can spend in the £100-150 million ballpark.
However, in this heavily-inflated market, where a Championship team like Southampton are asking £52 million for a 28-year-old James Ward-Prowse, Newcastle’s summer kitty looks slim, especially given that they need reinforcements all across the pitch to add that strength in depth in their squad, from left-back to central defence to midfield and attack, if possible.
One well-trodden path could be turning their attention to those relegated from the Premier League as the club looks to stretch their transfer budget as far as they can with value-for-money deals. All three relegated teams will need to balance the books as they adapt to the financial conditions of the Championship. And with this, there could be some bargains available for Newcastle to pursue.
Historically, Newcastle are no stranger when it comes to fishing in the newly-relegated clubs and have found some real bargains, with Callum Wilson and Nick Pope being two notable pickups, arriving for a relatively cheap transfer fee of £30 million combined. The Hard Tackle determines which three players the Magpies could target from those relegated sides.
Maddison to Newcastle United is a transfer story that just won’t go away because it makes all too much sense on the ground level. Eddie Howe is a big admirer of the Leicester playmaker’s playing style and mentality, and he has been the Magpies’ top target for literally ages. (Even Newcastle’s scouting department would have been knackered after recommending the player to the board so many times.)
The Magpies failed with two bids, ranging from £35 million to £45 million, for the England international last summer. Since then, the Foxes have dropped into the Championship. And despite Maddison’s contract running out in 2024, they are demanding a premium price of over £50 million.
Leicester will be hoping that competition between Tottenham Hotspur and Newcastle for Maddison will drum up a massive transfer fee from the sale ahead of their own rebuild. In addition, Liverpool might also compete with Tottenham and Newcastle for the English international.
Despite Leicester’s struggles this past season, Maddison has been in incredible form. The Englishman scored ten goals and provided nine assists in 28 Premier League appearances. He ranks among the top 12% of positional peers for shots, the top 8% for assists, the top 6% for Expected Assisted goals (xAG), and the top 15% for progressive passes per 90.
As far as eye-test goes, his passing range is fantastic, allowing him to unlock defences with ease, and his knack for picking out a key pass is second to none. He is also an excellent set-piece taker, which is sure to be important to any team that struggles in that area. This is a no-brainer in every sense of the word, barring his historic injury concerns.
Also, he could provide the safety net of creativity from the right-hand side if Newcastle’s extremely influential right-back, captain, and chief creator, Kieran Trippier, is injured or needs a break from the workload of Europe next season.
As things stand, Newcastle are said to be the front-runners over Tottenham in the battle for Maddison, although the race is fully open. There have been conflicting reports that Spurs are ready to offer better wages to the player than the Toon, and his agent is leaning towards a move to London.
At the same time, Newcastle’s pursuit of RB Leipzig midfielder Dominik Szoboszlai could also have a bearing on Newcastle’s pursuit of Maddison. If they do have an option out of the two, Maddison probably makes more sense at the moment, although the former’s work rate, lower age profile, versatility, and tremendous upper ceiling are tangibles hard to ignore.
The Englishman suits with Eddie Howe’s transfer strategy, with the Magpies manager mainly targeting English players with Premier League experience, like Matt Targett, Dan Burn, and Anthony Gordon.
The above is not to say that Newcastle should not look at any other market. They have also signed brilliant foreign players like Bruno Guimaraes and Sven Botman, who have propelled Howe’s side to climb into the top four this season.
However, you cannot help but feel that Maddison would be a great fit for this Newcastle side. With all of his experience in the Premier League and the fact that he has proven that he can do it in the top division, the England international looks perfect for them.
Newcastle United have been desperate to sign a No. 6 for the last couple of transfer windows to either rotate with Bruno Guimaraes or allow the Brazil international to play in an advanced role further up the pitch. And someone as energetic as Tyler Adams would be a stunning upgrade on Jonjo Shelvey, who was allowed to leave for Nottingham Forest back in January.
The USA international proved to be a costly miss during Leeds’s relegation run-in as Sam Allardyce proved unable to shore up the porous backline. Signed from RB Leipzig as Kalvin Phillips’s replacement, Adams received rave reviews and made 26 appearances for the Whites.
Adams has already been linked with both Arsenal and Manchester United along with the Magpies. And the 24-year-old could provide an affordable option in the ballpark of £30-35 million with the scope to build upon a promising debut Premier League campaign.
Top 5 Tacklers of the Premier League:
1. João Palhinha – 147 tackles (beast!)
2. Moisés Caicedo – 100 tackles (rookie record?)
3. Idrissa Gueye – 97 tackles (no one messes with him)
4. Tyler Adams – 89 tackles (speedy defender)
5. Casemiro – 89 tackles (midfield bulldozer) pic.twitter.com/IKaZ6yZr4q
— Naiiflix™ Official (@Naiiflix420) May 31, 2023
Standing at just 5ft 8in, he might not come across as a hunk. But he does not shy away from sliding into challenges — to take one for the team, so to speak. Despite missing the last few months of the season through injury, the aggressive Leeds ace still finished joint-fourth in the division alongside Casemiro for tackles made (89), with that a marker of his ball-winning prowess.
Unsurprisingly, Adams ranks in the top 1% among those in his position across Europe’s top five leagues for tackles made. These metrics indicate he is a pure, tough-tackling, combative defensive midfielder, often breaking up opposition play and quickly transitioning play with swift balls into the feet of Leeds’s more attack-minded players.
His tactical understanding to break up passing lines and intercept offensive plays makes him a fantastic defensive midfielder, something that bodes well for a transitional-heavy side like Newcastle, whose high press and risky forward-thinking game usually lead to a huge turnover of possession, especially against top-level sides.
He has the ability to maintain the tempo with short passing, aggression, off-the-ball work, and creating space. His progressive skillset is something Howe will need to work on, and at 24, he could still develop with the right guidance.
At Leeds, former Espanyol and Bayern Munich playmaker Marc Roca used to be the go-to man for key passes and ball progression thanks to his wonderful array of passing, something Guimaraes is perfectly suited to do.
Another interesting Adams attribute that makes him a tailor-made fit is his leadership qualities, strong work ethic, and relevant experience at the top level. The USMNT captain carries himself with a swagger, bite, and ferocious competitiveness that prevents anyone from ever putting a hand on him, or his team-mates, and he is willing to hold people accountable as well as himself when needed.
Players with a well-rounded personality on the pitch like him are hard to come by. And if the USMNT international is available for a reasonable fee, Newcastle should definitely consider him high on their midfield shortlist.
If Newcastle do manage to sign James Maddison and Tyler Adams for a combined £70-75 million, then that won’t leave much available for the other three areas Howe is hoping to improve, i.e., the left-back, centre-back, and right-wing. However, one hybrid, versatile player who will be useful to provide backup in multiple positions is Southampton ace Kyle Walker-Peters.
According to the Telegraph, Newcastle’s recruitment team have talked about potentially signing Walker-Peters. The Toon officials were impressed with the 26-year-old when Newcastle faced Southampton last season. The report adds that he could be available for around £15 million, half the reported price tag for Kieran Tierney, which would make him a bit of a steal in this current climate.
Walker-Peters has been a consistent performer for Southampton, playing 31 of the club’s 38 Premier League games last season, and his versatility makes him an attractive target. The 26-year-old is a right-back by trade, potentially offering depth for Kieran Trippier at St. James’ Park. But he is also able to play on the other side of the back four as well as on either wing thanks to his pace as a seriously nippy winger.
The former Tottenham star is equally comfortable marauding forward on the overlap as he is shifting the ball infield and acting as an extra midfield outlet for his teammates. His blend of athleticism, positive dribbling, and close control creates a player who moves forward with the ball confidently and impacts the game constantly despite playing at right-back. All of this indicates KWP is a modern full-back who is adept at performing multiple roles.
Unlike Trippier, who uses his playmaking attributes to dominate the proceedings of the game, Walker-Peters uses short, sharp passes and quick interchanges to dictate the tempo in and around the final third.
Defensively, his short stature, athleticism, recovery pace, and elasticity come in handy again. He can stick tight to markers — even speedy, dribble-heavy ones like Raheem Sterling — and track them step for step in close proximity, then stick a leg to dispossess or impose a tackle. He turns so fast that he can afford to defend aggressively because it’s hard to beat him, and if he is beaten, he has the speed to recover.
That is not to say he is defensively perfect. He is, categorically, a player with an attacking emphasis and always will be; he struggles when it comes to defending one-on-one situations and can be positionally found.
However, at 26 years old, it is something he can still work on. And someone like Trippier would be a good example to learn from given the similarities in their style of play. Although the Newcastle skipper does not possess the same recovery pace as Walker-Peters, he has the know-how of when to seize the chance to go forward and when to raise his guard against a tricky opponent.
Champions League football means more games, which means Howe will need to rotate. Trippier played every single game last season, but that surely won’t be possible next year. Walker-Peters would be an excellent backup option, and he can also play on the left side of defence. That is a valuable quality to have and could make him a very appealing option