In the light of beating main promotion rivals Brighton and Huddersfield, Newcastle United have one foot in the Premier League. As a result, transfer targets for the summer will be getting identified by Rafa Benitez. The Spaniard is in regular communication with managing director Lee Charnley about plans for the summer. Benitez is also keen to seek assurances from owner Mike Ashley that he will be handed the necessary funds to bring in the right players to strengthen the squad for the top flight.
Although the current crop of players are capable in this division, there is scepticism as to whether or not some will be able to make the grade in the Premier League and perform consistently at a good level. Here are the three key positions I sense will need to be strengthened should promotion be gained.
A striker has got to be top of Rafa Benitez’s hit list in the summer. United made the mistake last season of not investing in a Premier League proven centre-forward with a move for Charlie Austin falling through. Ultimately, they ended up with Mitrovic who wasn’t ready to lead the line for a Premier League side and Cisse who was way past his sell by date.
Although Dwight Gayle has netted 22 goals this season, he has his injury problems. Can be the main man next season? Maybe. Even though he could fill the boots, the burden should be taken off him with a proven striker brought in. That striker should be Bournemouth’s Callum Wilson. He fits the mould. English, fast, good finisher and the potential to grow under Benitez’s management. Will he be the next Bournemouth player to follow Ritchie to Tyneside? One to watch.
Yoan Gouffran has operated the left midfield position throughout the season with Benitez favouring the Frenchman’s work rate and he has also popped up with important goals for the Magpies. However, he is not Premier League quality and that has shown in the last couple of years with the former Bordeaux man being on the fringes for a while.
He was unable to get in a truly shambolic Steve McClaren team last season. Atsu has impressed when given the opportunity; the Ghanaian’s pace and directness has frightened opposition’s defences and he offers a significant threat going forward. Doubts remain as to whether the loan will be made permanent or not with his appearances being limited.
However, he could prove to be a good Premier League player if given the opportunity. Another option could be Andros Townsend. Townsend has shown he has got what it takes and he would settle in straight away. Benitez likes him and I wouldn’t be surprised if another approach for the Englishman is made in the summer.
Newcastle would not be in the position they are currently if it wasn’t for Jonjo Shelvey. The former Swansea man has been pivotal in the promotion push this season and has been the main creative spark in a team that lacks creativity without him. In Shelvey’s absence over the festive period, Isaac Hayden tried to be that ingenious midfield spark but was unable to provide it.
A player needs to be brought in to take the burden of Shelvey. Fabian Delph is a player who is on the fringes at Manchester City, he was linked with a move to Tyneside in the January transfer window although a move never materialised. He would be a good addition to most clubs outside of the top five and the box to box midfielder proved during his stint at Villa Park that he can chip in with goals and assists. Delph could indeed prove to be a shrewd bit of business by Rafa Benitez if a deal could be struck in the summer.