EPL

New Year, Newcastle: Where the Magpies might spend their money in January

By Sports Desk January 01, 2022

The January transfer window is officially open for business, with most eyes pointing in the direction of Newcastle United following their takeover by a Saudi consortium earlier this season.

The long-awaited transaction was approved by the Premier League in October after it received "legally binding assurances" that the club would not be controlled by the Saudi Arabian government.

The takeover saw the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF) take an 80 per cent stake in the club, ending Mike Ashley's 14-year ownership.

Replacing Steve Bruce with Eddie Howe in the dugout was the first move by the new owners, but the apparent richest club in the world are expected to really flex their muscles in the transfer market over the next few years, likely beginning this month.

Head coach Howe has already indicated he intends to dip into the significant amounts of cash available in an attempt to keep the Magpies in the Premier League, and Stats Perform has taken a look at where that money might be best spent.

Keylor Navas (Paris Saint-Germain)

In theory, the smartest thing for Newcastle to do would be to build for the future, so it may seem counter-intuitive to start by suggesting a 35-year-old, but the fact is they need results right now.

When trying to build stability, it almost always starts in goal where you must have a reliable figure to save the day when needed, but most importantly, to build confidence and reassurance through the spine of a team.

With all due respect to Karl Darlow and Martin Dubravka, Newcastle can do better, and with the position of the experienced Navas currently under threat in Paris thanks to the arrival of Gianluigi Donnarumma at the start of the season, this could be an opportunity to bring in a genuinely world-class option right now.

The Costa Rican was a near ever-present at PSG last season, making 45 appearances in all competitions, and boasted the best save percentage in Europe's top five leagues of goalkeepers who played at least 15 games (79.55).

Navas has still played 11 league games this season while Donnarumma is eased in, with his save percentage only slightly declining (77.27), and still comfortably ahead of Darlow (60.53) and Dubravka (58.33).

The former Real Madrid stopper would bring experience of succeeding at the top level, having won three Champions Leagues at the Santiago Bernabeu, and might consider it one last hurrah to be a regular at an ambitious Premier League project rather than staying put to watch from the bench at the Parc des Princes.

If Howe wants someone a bit younger, he could look at Sevilla's Yassine 'Bono' Bounou, who was second to Navas in save percentage last season (76.62) and has improved on that so far this campaign (78.26), with a significantly higher number of catches as well (18 to Navas' two), which suggests he might be more suited to the Premier League where crosses are more prevalent.

However, it is unlikely that Sevilla – who have the best defensive record in LaLiga this season – would countenance a move in January, and Bounou will be on Africa Cup of Nations duty for most of the next month with Morocco anyway, so would probably be one to revisit in the summer.

Kieran Trippier (Atletico Madrid)

Slightly easier to predict this one, as the former Tottenham right-back has been heavily linked with a move to St James' Park in recent weeks.

Trippier is seen as an upgrade on Javier Manquillo, which on the face of it, might not be such an obvious assumption based on this season.

The England international is yet to register a goal or assist in 14 games in all competitions, while Manquillo has one goal and two assists in 12 games, although Trippier has created seven chances to Manquillo's four.

Trippier has a slightly superior pass completion percentage in the opposition half (72.89 to 68.18) but the Spaniard has the edge on duel success percentage (63.73 to 58.16) and dribble success rate (53.33 to 46.15).

Although Trippier may not have excelled in this campaign yet, his prior record in England counts in his favour, particularly his last season at Tottenham.

In 2018-19, he created 49 chances in 27 Premier League games, the third highest for defenders behind only Lucas Digne (71) and Andy Robertson (51), having played eight and nine games fewer than both respectively, and more than Trent Alexander-Arnold (48) having played two games fewer.

If Trippier can rediscover that creativity, he could give Howe an extra dimension, including the possibility to utilise wing-backs, where he has played on occasion for his country.

Sven Botman (Lille)

The Dutch centre-back was being linked with some of Europe's top clubs at the end of last season after winning Ligue 1 with Lille, but ultimately stayed at the Stade Pierre-Mauroy.

However, he has been a name closely mentioned with Newcastle in recent weeks, with rumours of a £30million price being placed on his head, but how does the 21-year-old compare to the Magpies' current options?

This season, Botman has a better duel success rate (68.49) than each of Jamaal Lascelles (64.13), Federico Fernandez (62.50) and Fabian Schar (45.90), as well as more successful long passes (50) than all three, which could provide the likes of Allan Saint-Maximin and Miguel Almiron with more immediate service.

He has also conceded only five fouls, compared to 11 each from Lascelles and Schar, which should mean fewer dangerous set-pieces around the box to defend.

Botman would be someone who could come in and make an immediate impact given his experience at Lille, but would also be one for the future, and someone that Howe could potentially build his backline around for years to come.

Boubacar Kamara (Marseille)

Like most other players with a pulse, Kamara has been regularly linked with a move to the Premier League, with his current contract at the Stade Velodrome expiring at the end of the season.

Kamara is primarily a defensive midfielder and could be another option for Howe to shore up what is currently a rather jellified spine at Newcastle.

The 22-year-old compares favourably to Isaac Hayden and Jonjo Shelvey in most metrics, having scored the same number of goals (one), while creating more open-play chances than both (10), having a better duel success rate (55.56), and making more interceptions (16) and more recoveries (63).

Like Botman, Kamara is a player who could come in and be an immediate improvement, while also being someone for the long term.

Some Newcastle fans might think that a creative midfielder would be a better investment at this stage, in which case you could look at the likes of out-of-favour duo Philippe Coutinho (Barcelona) or Todd Cantwell (Norwich City), or even outside shouts like Ligue 1 pair Benjamin Bourigeaud (Rennes) or Teji Savanier (Montpellier).

Having plenty of steel in the midfield seems more important for Howe when trying to develop teams though, as seen when he spent the vast majority of his budget at Bournemouth on signing Jefferson Lerma from Levante in 2018.

Ben Brereton Diaz (Blackburn Rovers)

Although starting to rebuild Newcastle should definitely start with Howe putting in a strong base, one area he simply has to address in January is up top, especially with Callum Wilson facing a spell on the sidelines with a calf injury.

Only Wilson (six) and Saint-Maximin (four) have scored more than once in the league for Newcastle this season, and Howe needs someone else to call upon who can find the net on a regular basis, which is something Brereton Diaz has been doing, especially after deciding to become Chilean.

The 22-year-old has been in ruthless form for Blackburn this season, bagging 20 goals in 24 Championship games for Tony Mowbray's side, putting him second only to former Newcastle forward Aleksandar Mitrovic (22 goals for Fulham).

It is a remarkable improvement for the Stoke-born striker, who only managed 17 goals in 133 Championship appearances prior to this season but has exploded since becoming a Chile international, even representing the country of his mother's birth at last year's Copa America.

He is a player who looks ready for the next level, while also potentially being in a position where he will be happy to rotate with Wilson once he returns.

Plus, Newcastle have had decent success in buying strikers from Blackburn in the past.

The important thing for Newcastle is to not run before they can walk. There has been a noticeable improvement in performances if not results since Howe arrived, but getting from where they are to where they want to be is certainly not going to happen overnight.

Using their newfound wealth to build slowly and sensibly should ensure that whatever happens down the line, they can at least put the foundations in for sustained success rather than going for the biggest and flashiest names right away.

Staying in the Premier League is the primary goal for the remainder of this season, then at the end of the campaign they can perhaps look to progress to the next level.

Then again, if they can sign Erling Haaland and Kylian Mbappe then frankly, have at it lads.

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