This summer, we will see players leaving permanently and on loan and players coming in. Soon, we should also see the club release some out of contract players in the youth sides as well as Jesus Gamez, Massadio Haidara and Curtis Good. Let's take a look at each position and who could be in our 25 man squad next season.
Martin Dubravka has just been signed permanently from Sparta Prague which may lead to Karl Darlow or Rob Elliot leaving. Elliot is probably the more likely to leave as he's just turned thirty-two and has been injury prone during his time on Tyneside (he hasn't played a single minute since the Man City game just after Christmas). Should one of them leave, Rafa will have to look at getting a goalkeeper who'd be happy to be second or third choice behind Dubravka or even make Freddie Woodman third choice (this could depend on pre season). But he could do both if both Darlow and Elliot leave. nineteen year olds Nathan Harker, who played in the mid season friendly against Royal Antwerp and Paul Woolston, who won promotion on loan at South Shields in the second half of this season, will probably be looking at loan moves for this season. As for Matz Sels, it looks like he's about to complete a permanent move to Anderlecht.
Jesus Gamez and Massadio Haidara are likely to be released soon so Rafa will be looking for a new left back as cover for Paul Dummett, who missed four months of last season after going off injured against Tottenham on the opening day. Despite being frozen out at Benevento, Achraf Lazaar could get his chance in pre season, had Dummett suffered an injury during the 2016-17 season, the Moroccan may well have been given a chance but was left unhappy with his game time for us, probably the reason for Rafa transfer listing him last summer. Meanwhile, we are reportedly listening to offers for Javier Manquillo as Rafa is searching for a new right-back, whilst it looks like West Ham have beaten us to Fulham's Ryan Fredericks, we have also been linked with Torino's Lorenzo De Silvestri. Jamie Sterry did well on loan at Crewe in the second half of the season but bar an impressive loan spell in the Championship next season, he will surely be released when his contract expires in a year's time. If I remember correctly, twenty-two year old Macaulay Gillesphey's contract runs out soon, if this is the case, he will surely be released as he's yet to play in the first team whilst Josef Yarney and Stefan O'Connor, who've played a lot of U23s football since joining from Everton and Arsenal respectively last summer, could get loaned out for the season, I don't know how long Yarney has on his contract but O'Connor will have to impress if is loaned out as his contract expires next season. Meanwhile, Curtis Good looks set to finally leave after only two first team appearances in six years (how has he managed to stay with us for this long?) despite scoring in our U23s' cup derby win over Sunderland, along with Stuart Findlay, who spent last season on loan at Kilmarnock but has only played once in two years for our first team.
As for centre-backs, it looks like Chancel Mbemba is about to return to Anderlecht but it's reported that we'll only receive around £7m combined for him and Sels, I would've definitely asked for more than that for Mbemba but the Belgian League probably isn't very rich as Anderlecht are one of the bigger clubs there and couldn't afford Mitrovic's wages when he was about to rejoin them on loan, meaning he went to Fulham instead. We have been linked with twenty-six year old Gianmarco Ferrari, if he was to be signed, that would mean him, Florian Lejeune, captain Jamaal Lascelles (who's probably the first name on the teamsheet) and Ciaran Clark fighting for the centre-back positions. If Clark is left as fourth choice next season, surely it won't be long until he leaves as he turns twenty-nine in September.
Jonjo Shelvey and Mohamed Diame's superb partnership has left Mikel Merino and Isaac Hayden struggling for game time. If we were to sell Hayden, it wouldn't be too big a loss but we have to keep Merino incase anything happens to Shelvey or Diame. If Hayden did leave, a replacement would be needed and to be fair to him, Merino looks better alongside him than Shelvey or Diame. In addition to Merino being needed incase of injuries or suspensions, he has shown his talent this season but hasn't been the same player since his back injury in October and is nearly twenty-two so can only get better whilst Diame's nearly thirty-one so won't have too long left with us. Liberian Mohammed Sangare has been training with the first team, having impressed in the U23s so could get a chance in the first team in pre season and then potentially a loan.
Nottingham Forest are trying to get Jack Colback signed permanently after he did well there on loan, which may not give us much money but will take him off the wages, a problem we faced last summer and could well do again this summer. If Colback was to leave, it could be like Coloccini's departure, when the club terminated his contract a year early (Colback's contract runs out next year), if no'one can afford his wages, or Hanley's departure, which took a long time to happen due to wage issues, until a deal was agreed with Norwich. Despite his superb free kick against West Ham in December, Henri Saivet spent the second half of last season on loan at Sivasspor but has apparently struggled over there, although he will probably feature in pre season, Rafa will probably be hoping to sell the Senegalese midfielder, who failed to make their World Cup squad. Dan Barlaser is facing a race against time to save his Newcastle career after he struggled to get game time on loan at Crewe, he has played against Birmingham and Nottingham Forest in cup games for us and impressed for the U23s but could do with a loan spell in League One then a loan spell in the Championship if he's going to make it for us, I hope he gets one or two games for us in pre season to help Rafa judge him though. A new number ten would be ideal as cover for Ayoze Perez as Diame is unlikely to play there after becoming a new player as a defensive midfielder.
Rafa has recently told Kenedy that's welcome back at the club, whilst the likes of PSG and Bayern Munich have been interested in the Brazilian, he is already loved by our fans and knows he'd get a starting XI spot with us but would have to wait for his chance if he went to a bigger club. Whether he stays at Chelsea next season could depend on whether Antonio Conte is manager there next season but even if he was in a new manager's plans for next season, he could struggle to get a chance judging by Chelsea's history of failing to give youth players a chance before regretting it (which I think they could with him). It seems like Jacob Murphy, Matt Ritchie and Christian Atsu will still be here next season but if we don't sign or even loan Kenedy, a new winger will be needed as Rafa will probably not want to use Rolando Aarons after his court case appearance and failure to make an impact at Hellas Verona as they were relegated from Serie A, we could see the twenty-two year old either loaned out again (in which case he'll have to impress if he wants to have a chance of succeeding with us) or even sold permanently. Alex Gilliead is reportedly in talks about extended his contract (which ends soon) but got one goal and two assists in forty-two games on loan at Bradford in League One this season (similar stats to what Remy Cabella had in his thirty-one league games for us in 2014/15), at twenty-two, surely that should be enough to confirm that he's not going to be good enough for us. Victor Fernandez has impressed for the U23s and in the friendly against Royal Antwerp so could we see the twenty year old get loaned out this season? Personally, I can also see him getting some minutes in pre season and then potentially a loan.
This is probably the position we need to strengthen the most, Islam Slimani will not be returning after he only played four times for us on loan from Leicester due to injuries and eventually a ban but to be fair, he did have a good impact against Huddersfield and Arsenal and made Dwight Gayle raise his game but him and Joselu only scored ten goals between them. The Leicester Mercury have linked us with former Foxes striker Andrej Kramaric, who scored 16 goals for Hoffenheim as they finished 3rd in the Bundesliga this season and is going to the World Cup with Croatia (I know Rafa won't have his mind changed on players by the tournament) whilst Joshua King is reportedly unhappy at Bournemouth after only scoring three goals last season, having had to play in the number ten role with Jermain Defoe arriving there last summer despite his sixteen goals in 2016/17 whilst Callum Wilson was also preferred as the main man to King. Could the Norwegian get his career back on track under Rafa, knowing he would be the main man if we signed him (unless we signed another striker)? Meanwhile, we were linked with Nicolai Jorgensen in January but wouldn't pay the £20m asking price, the Dane hasn't ruled out a summer move to England (so no doubt we'll be linked again) but personally, I wouldn't want him as he only scored ten goals this season in Holland. Callum Roberts impressed for the U23s in the Northumberland Senior Cup final win over Morpeth and could get some minutes in pre season before going out on loan for the season. Whatever happens, we will need three strikers in our squad next season.
As for the ones who spent all of or half of last season out on loan, Aleksandar Mitrovic will probably be out the door soon and a good World Cup should mean we get more money for him after he impressed on loan at Fulham as they won promotion, I'd rather have seen him get a chance over Gayle and Joselu but unfortunately, he doesn't seem to fit into Rafa's style. Hopefully we get a bidding war for the Serbian, if Rafa was prepared to let Fulham have permanently, it could be a sign of him expecting us to stay clear of the relegation battle as he wouldn't want to see him sold to a club competing with us next season. Ivan Toney didn't impress on loan at Wigan in the first half of the season and despite another decent loan spell at Scunthorpe in the second half of the season, he surely has to be sold this summer as he's twenty-two and doesn't look like being good enough for the Premier League. Adam Armstrong was played out wide for Bolton in the first half and only scored once in twenty games so perhaps doesn't fit their style of play but found his feet at Blackburn in League One under Tony Mowbray, who he also did well under at Coventry, surely the Scotsman should consider getting him on loan again for the season to see if he can help them stay up in the Championship as he would be playing as the main man this time. He has to impress on loan in the Championship otherwise, he surely won't make it for us.
In my opinion, any players that are transfer listed this summer have to be sold or at least loaned so that they're not just taking wages whilst doing nothing and it means we can get some money for them. For example, most of us will disagree with Mbemba being transfer listed but Rafa knows more than us and there must be a reason that he's not being playing much recently despite his talents. And we don't want youth players to always be kept on as potential, eventually, that potential will be gone. To finish the article, let's look at some players that the bookies are linking to us:
Ben Gibson (8/1) - Could add competition for the centre-back roles and be tempted to leave his hometown club Middlesbrough after their failure to win promotion but would he want to come here as some Smoggies see us as rivals despite the fact some argue they're not part of the North East and the fact we haven't played them since March 2010
Ryan Bertrand (8/1) - This would be a decent signing but would he be happy to be second choice to Dummett at left-back?
Salomon Rondon (10/1) - Has a £16m release clause but could be sold for less after West Brom's relegation, wouldn't be a bad option in my opinion.
Jack Grealish (12/1) - Already liked on Tyneside after his last gasp goal against Brighton in May 2017 handed us the Championship title and was good for Aston Villa last season, he could be on the move after their failure to win promotion, this could be part of Villa's demise as they prepare for a third successive Championship season despite all the money they spent. Man Utd are surprisingly the favourites to sign him but Leicester are considering a bid according to Sky.
Craig Dawson (14/1) - What's the point? Twenty-eight and wouldn't get into our starting XI in my opinion.
Jack Wilshere (25/1) - His Arsenal contract could be up soon and would be decent if we signed him to play at number ten but is probably more likely to join his ex Gunners teammate Theo Walcott at Everton or sign for his boyhood club West Ham.
Jermain Defoe (25/1) - This probably will not happen as he's already played for Sunderland and is still loved by their fans.
Joe Hart (25/1) - Not a chance we'd want to sign him after Dubravka's signed permanently. Looks like he'll be heading for the MLS.