Review of our summer signings
Newcastle United made a total of twelve signings in the summer of 2016. In a bid for an immediate return to the Premier League, Rafa Benitez signed players that would all fit well together in a 4-4-2 formation with a remainder of one. I'll have a look at how the summer signings have fared so far since arriving at the club. It would be interesting to hear of your opinions on the players as well.
Sels was ever present for the first nine league games this season before he lost his place to Karl Darlow in late September. Sels, despite keeping clean sheets in four of those nine games, seemed rather unconvincing and lacking in confidence when it came to aerial battles. Whenever a cross or a corner came into the box, he just didn't seem to know whether to meet the ball or to stay on the line and, because of this indecisiveness, having Sels guarding the sticks sometimes felt like a heart attack waiting to happen.
Sels was signed from Gent for £4.5million on 29th June thus making him the first signing of the summer. Personally, I was rather disappointed with this signing despite having known nothing of him beforehand. With Tim Krul and Rob Elliot set to miss the first few months of the season with injuries sustained last season, I was expecting, and more than happy, to have Karl Darlow having more game time with Freddie Woodman as a suitable back-up. Because of this, the signing of a new goalkeeper would not have been high on my list of priorities.
Despite no longer being a first team regular for the first team, Sels is still young for a goalkeeper having just recently turned 25 years-old. I'm feeling quite optimistic for Sels' future, however, given that Newcastle possess other young goalkeeping talent with Karl Darlow and Freddie Woodman, I don't think Sels will have much of a future at the club unless he improves and learns from his early experiences of English football.
It's safe to say that the American international's biggest strength is his pace. Yedlin has created and been a key part of many successful moves this season. Yedlin, with his pace, has undoubtedly got great attacking ability however some fans don't appear to say the same about his defensive ability.
DeAndre signed for Tottenham in 2014 (moved to the club in 2015) from the Seattle Sounders, which is where he knew former Newcastle striker Obafemi Martins. After signing for Newcastle, Yedlin claimed that Martins had influenced his decision to play in the north east hence Yedlin decided to move out on loan to rivals, Sunderland after only making one appearance in his first season at White Hart Lane. Upon his return from Sunderland, he signed for Newcastle for £5million in the last week of the transfer window.
Yedlin's best moment in his debut season at St. James' Park, I think, was his performance against Rotherham at home in January where he bagged himself two assists in a game where Newcastle dominated and earned three deserved points against a struggling Rotherham side to make them further adrift at the bottom of the table.
Jesus Gamez hasn't had much in the way of opportunities to impress the fans at Newcastle since his move from Atletico Madrid but the veteran defender has made himself a rather useful back-up for the side as he can play on both sides of the full back position.
The former Malaga defender, who captained the side under former Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini, made his debut in a 2-0 home win over Cheltenham in the second round of the EFL Cup.
Despite not being called upon much in the squad, I do think that Gamez has done a good job in the defence and has been knocking on the door for a regular first team place adding competition for Vurnon Anita, DeAndre Yedlin and a recently improved Paul Dummett.
I have to admit that I was rather sceptical with the incoming transfer of Clark because he struggled to get first team football last season at Aston Villa in a side that conceded goals for fun and showed no passion for their fans as they ended up getting relegated with four games remaining, although their fight against relegation appeared to be over long beforehand. Clark though has proved me wrong as he's been consistently solid at the back and formed a good defensive partnership with captain, Jamaal Lascelles.
Purchased from Aston Villa for £5million, Clark previously scored at St. James Park for Aston Villa in August 2012 where Clark broke the deadlock in the first half before Hatem Ben Arfa's wonder-strike provided the equaliser in a match that finishing 1-1.
Clark didn't have to wait long for his first goal for the club, coming in a 6-0 thrashing away at QPR in September - it was his goal that made the score 4-0. Since then he's scored two more goals which came against Brentford and Bristol City (both at home). However one downside to Clark's first season in black and white so far would be his own goal to give QPR a last minute equaliser in a game that Newcastle dominated but had to settle for a 2-2 draw.
The new signing from Blackburn Rovers signed for Newcastle before the captain for the season was announced and thus was shortlisted as a potential skipper before the decision to give it to Jamaal Lascelles was confirmed having had captaincy experience at Ewood Park.
Making his first team debut at the age of 18 for Blackburn in May 2010, Hanley experienced relegation from the Premier League in 2012 and remained at Blackburn before making his first ever move away from the north-western club.
At the time of writing this, he's only made 13 appearances in all competitions so far this season although he does give Ciaran Clark some competition for the spot in the centre-back. It didn't take Hanley long to get off the mark for the club as, just like fellow centre-back signing, Ciaran Clark, he opened his Newcastle account in the 6-0 away win at QPR in September.
Lazaar has been the subject of some fans' frustration at times this season, as the promising left-back, who can also play in left-midfield hasn't been playing much at all since the Moroccan international's move from Serie A side, Palermo in the summer. Before Paul Dummett's sudden change of fortunes in form and beginning to put in some good performances, many fans appeared to be calling for Lazaar to be given a chance.
Having only made starts in both cup competitions, it can be easily argued that Newcastle is yet to see the best of the 25-year old who has four years remaining on his current contract. He is currently Newcastle's only outfield summer signing, except for Jesus Gamez, who is yet to score his first goal for the club however he did come close to adding his name on the score sheet in the FA Cup third round replay at home to Birmingham.
Being the most expensive of all the summer signings, Ritchie has certainly stepped up to the plate under Rafa Benitez in proving himself to be a key player in Newcastle's promotion-chasing season. Signed for £12million from Premier League Bournemouth, Ritchie departed the south coast in search of his second promotion from the Championship to the Premier League.
Having played in 36 of the 38 league games last season for Bournemouth, his move to Tyneside was something of a pleasant surprise to me. Since his signing, he's been a regular starter for the side and also a regular goal-getter as he's currently the Toon Army's second highest goalscorer this season, behind the consistent Dwight Gayle, with 13 goals. He bagged his 10th goal of the campaign with his second goal in a rampant 4-0 win against Rotherham in January.
Having made himself a big fan favourite in his first season at St. James' Park, the fans will surely be hoping to retain his services for the foreseeable future because his performances of late will undoubtedly be attracting interest from Premier League clubs.
Hayden has been an interesting additional to the Newcastle squad as we've seen over the course of this season. Signed from Arsenal at the age of 21, he hasn't been a regular for the first team although he has made 31 appearances in all competitions, scoring the one goal which was the first of four in Newcastle's first win of the season at home to Reading in August.
It appears that Hayden is no stranger to the Championship as he spent last season on loan at Hull City who gained promotion via the play-offs and made 18 appearances with one goal in the process.
Still being at a young age, Hayden has his best years ahead of him and I think we are still yet to see what he can really do and we hope to see that potential to be a good playmaker in both midfield and defence in the near future.
Similar to Hayden, Diame played his football at the KCOM Stadium last season as he helped Hull City back into the Premier League and notable scored a sublime goal in the play-off final as they beat Sheffield Wednesday 2-0. Diame though opted to remain in the Championship by joining Newcastle and seemingly be Rafa Benitez's replacement for Moussa Sissoko. His speciality is to play in the no.10 role behind the sole striker.
Diame's form this season has been rather inconsistent as it took him a while to find his feet in the black and white shirt. His best moment this season, I think, is his incredibly lucky equalising goal away at Brighton in February where Christian Atsu's wayward volley took a slight deflection off Daryl Murphy before hitting Diame's heel causing the ball to balloon up in the air and perfectly drop into the goal underneath the crossbar and just too high for the defender on the line. Minutes later, Ayoze Perez scored a winner to give Newcastle a highly valuable three points to take away from the south coast.
With Diame not getting any younger as he turns to the age of 30 in June this year, Newcastle fans may be thinking whether Diame will be able to cut it in the Premier League and some may be wanting Benitez to bring in a new attacking midfielder should we get promotion this season. However it has to be said that he does have plenty of Premier League experience after playing for Wigan, West Ham and Hull City in the top flight.
Atsu became Newcastle's 12th and final summer signing, coming on a season-long loan from Chelsea. After signing for Chelsea in 2013, he is still yet to make a first team appearance for them and has had loan spells at Vitesse, Everton, Bournemouth and Malaga in the process. Atsu hasn't been a regular starter for Newcastle this season as Yoan Gouffran appears to be Rafa Benitez's preference for the left winger role. Atsu did however, miss around six weeks of the season in the winter after being called up to play for Ghana in the African Cup of Nations coached by former Chelsea manager Avram Grant.
Currently, Atsu has scored three goals for the club, all of which coming in the league. The first came in the 1-0 away win at Rotherham in early October and has since scored against Cardiff at home and Wigan away. Internationally, he has made 42 appearances and scored 9 goals since 2012.
There are rumours currently circulating that suggest that Atsu could make his move to St. James' Park a permanent one. With Chelsea rumoured to be wanting £8million for the 25-year old, Newcastle could well see the best years of the Ghanaian whose best attribute is his quick pace.
Gayle has arguably been the Toon's player of the season so far with no less than 21 goals to his name. It certainly seems that every penny of the £10million given to Alan Pardew's Crystal Palace has been well worth-it. With fellow striker Aleksander Mitrovic suspended for the first few matches of the season, Gayle immediately became a key player having taken the famous no.9 shirt left vacant after Papiss Cisse's departure to the Chinese League.
Gayle is no stranger to the Premier League having made 64 appearances for Crystal Palace. Because of this, I'm all the more grateful to him for taking the step down to the Championship given that Premier League clubs may have easily been haggling for his signature. The decision to make the move up to Tyneside and down to the Championship seems to be one that has worked wonders for his confidence having recently stated, "I'm enjoying my football the most I ever have".
Gayle has clearly been no stranger in front of goal this season having scored two hat-tricks which have come against Norwich and Birmingham, both of which have been at home. The most notable performance was his hat-trick against Norwich in September which seemed to be the turning point for the better in Newcastle's season with achieving eight consecutive victories after the great comeback against. With Newcastle being 3-1 down with 20 minutes remaining, Gayle added his second of the match after latching onto a long ball from Jonjo Shelvey. After a 95th minute equaliser scored by Yoan Gouffran, Gayle scored a winner one minute later from just outside the area to give himself his first Newcastle hat-trick and three important points for the club.
Murphy has been a player who has been a useful back-up for the team and has shown how good he can be in the cameo appearances he has made. He has, so far, scored four goals this season from the nine appearances he has made. In my view, his best goal came in the game at home to Fulham where he outmuscled defenders in his way to get to the ball, cut inside and unleashed a shot from outside the box into the bottom corner of the goal. Unfortunately for Newcastle, that strike proved to be just a consolation goal as the Magpies lost 3-1.
Murphy originally made his name as a player just a few miles from Newcastle at neighbouring Sunderland as he made 110 appearances for Sunderland, some of which came in the season that the Black Cats finished the season relegated in last place with, what was then, a record low of 15 points. After Sunderland, Murphy signed for Celtic where he spent three years at Celtic Park however, for the vast majority of those three years, he had two loan spells at Ipswich before permanently moving to Portman Road in 2013 where scored an impressive 61 goals during that time.
With Murphy now at the tender age of 34, he may be considering to call time on his playing career and so I don't think he will make a lasting impact on the side. At times when Dwight Gayle is fit to play, Murphy will struggle to fight for his place in the team but his contribution this season has been a good one albeit also being a brief one.
 The Mag, 'Dwight Gayle 'This is one of the best time of my life - 100%', March 2017, http://www.themag.co.uk/2017/03/dwight-gayle-one-best-times-life-100-newcastle-united/
[Date Accessed: 09/03/17].