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Looking ahead to the January window

We are now halfway through the Premier League campaign and it's safe to say this has been a tough season for us so far as we currently sit 9th in the table. With us playing in Europe for the first time in 11 seasons, it was always going to be more challenging than last season and that's before we were placed into the Champions League group of death (plus getting drawn against Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea in the Carabao Cup) and have also suffered so many injury problems whilst summer signing Sandro Tonali was also handed a 10 month ban in late October for breaching Italian betting regulations.


Things certainly haven't been helped by how things have went in December as in the space of a week, we suffered 3-0 and 4-1 losses away to Everton and Tottenham Hotspur respectively before we crashed out of Europe altogether as AC Milan came from behind to win 2-1 at St James' Park when a win would've seen us through to the Champions League knock-out stages whilst a draw would've been enough to go into the Europa League. Furthermore, after we beat Fulham 3-0, we were then knocked out of the Carabao Cup on penalties by Chelsea as Mykhailo Mudryk benefitted from a Kieran Trippier error in stoppage time to level things up before Trippier and Matt Ritchie were unable to score their kicks. This was followed up by embarrassing performances in defeats away to Luton Town and at home to Nottingham Forest and in typical Newcastle United fashion, all four goals we conceded came from former Magpies players - Andros Townsend's header gave the Hatters a 1-0 win as they also kept their first ever Premier League clean sheet before Chris Wood bagged a hat-trick as Forest came from behind to win 3-1 on Tyneside.


As you can imagine, the upcoming January window is a huge one for us and fans will wish it could've come sooner. With Tonali's ban, a new midfielder will be needed until the end of the season and we have been strongly linked with a loan move for Manchester City's Kalvin Phillips, which will mean he can come in to help us out (if he can stay fit) before the Italian is able to play for us again. If he can recapture his form from his time at Leeds United, him playing as the 'number six' that fans have crying out for will also allow Bruno Guimarães to play further forward whilst having him on loan will mean there'll be no pressure on us to pay his full wages and then potentially struggle to sell him if things don't work out. Rúben Neves would've also been a good option on loan but he's admitted that's happy at Al-Hilal and has no interest in leaving so there's no point going in for him.


Nick Pope picking a long term shoulder injury in our recent 1-0 win over Manchester United sums up our injury luck this season and to make things more painful, Martin Dúbravka has failed to perform anywhere near as well as he was before his loan move to Erik Ten Hag's outfit, which soured his relationship with Magpies fans. At this point, I wouldn't mind giving Loris Karius a chance between the sticks, especially as the German has performed well when he has played for us in friendlies as well as last season's Carabao Cup final. Another option that has been suggested would be signing Dúbravka's former Red Devils teammate David De Gea, who is still a free agent after he was released in the summer. We have also been linked with a move for Arsenal's Aaron Ramsdale and a loan move for Real Madrid's Andriy Lunin.


If we were to sign De Gea, it would make sense to sign him on a deal until the end of the season (by which time, Pope should be fit again) with the Spaniard having just turned 33 whilst he would also be wanting a big salary and to be the number one keeper. Eddie Howe knows Ramsdale from their time at Bournemouth and he was unlucky to lose his place in the Gunners starting XI to David Raya but if we were to buy him, he would then be left needing to decide whether to play him or Pope, although at the age of 25, he would be a good option for us if we decided to bring in a new number one keeper. As for Lunin, he has only made 26 competitive appearances since his move to Madrid in June 2018 but a loan deal would mean we get the chance to see what he's like before potentially buying him, although I imagine that the Ukrainian would want to be starting ahead of Pope before committing to a permanent move and at the age of 24, he is another one who could replace him as our starting keeper.


We are reportedly also looking to add a versatile forward to the squad and we need to with Alexander Isak and Callum Wilson's injury records. Bologna's Joshua Zirkzee, who has scored seven goals in 18 appearances in all competitions so far this season, has been linked and we are supposedly prepared to offer £43,000,000 for the Dutchman. It is a lot of money for the 22 year old but he is someone who would be unlikely to demand to be starting ahead of Isak or Wilson straight away but we can blood him into the side and he can eventually be the long term replacement for Wilson. Quite similar to when Anthony Gordon only started four games between his £45,000,000 move from Everton last January and the end of the season before starting every league game and getting six goals and six assists so far this season.


Another forward from Serie A that we have been linked with is Juventus winger Matías Soulé, who is reportedly valued at £22,000,000, has scored six goals in 17 appearances in all competitions on loan at Frosinone so far this season and more importantly, is a natural right winger, a position we could do with strengthening in with Miguel Almirón struggling and Jacob Murphy out injured. Additionally, the Argentine wouldn't need to be registered in our Premier League squad until the 2025/26 season (although he would need to be registered for List A if we did qualify for Europe again next season). Juve are reportedly planning to sell some of their younger players to raise funds for the transfer window but to sell Soulé to us, they would need to convince Frosinone to end his loan deal early.


If we did go in for one of the two, I think that given that he can also play as a second striker, Soulé would be the more likely to sign for us if Juve can reach an agreement with Frosinone to recall him. Some people may want Yankuba Minteh recalled from his loan spell at Feyenoord but whilst I would start him over Almirón at the minute, the 19 year old is best off continuing his development in Holland. Besides, recalling him and then not giving him much gametime will only make it harder for us to loan out our younger talents to clubs across the continent and there is a chance he gets called up to Gambia's squad for next month's Africa Cup of Nations. Fans would also ask for him to be loaned out again if he was recalled, only to struggle against Premier League defences due to a lack of experience but I hope we get to see him in pre-season next summer.


Fans have also questioned the loan signing of Lewis Hall and whether he'll meet the conditions that will mean we are obliged to buy him from Chelsea next summer for £28,000,000 with the 19 year old having only started one Premier League game and has only played more than 45 minutes once in competitions despite our injury problems. My opinion on this is that Eddie will feel that the money can be better spent elsewhere within the side and it may be that we see more of the England U20 international after the transfer window closes so that we don't have to pay the £28,000,000 to the Blues for him until the summer.

What has annoyed me a lot recently is people now talking about the summer transfer window being a bad one with the injuries we've picked up. You could argue we should've looked to get another striker in as back-up to Wilson and Isak and hopefully, this is put right next month, but we have also been badly affected by FFP and a lack of money from the kit sponsorship and manufacturer deals in recent years, something which our owners have put right with Sela taking over from Fun88 as our kit sponsors and Adidas being set to take over from Castore as our kit manufacturers from next season whilst the money we'll have received from playing Champions League games will also help.


We needed a midfielder and I was excited with the signing of Sandro Tonali (and I very much look forward to seeing him in action again next season) but unfortunately, few could've predicted what would happen to him. The same can be said for Harvey Barnes, who played 34 league games for Leicester City last season but picked up a freak injury in our 8-0 win at Sheffield United in only our sixth league game of the season and hasn't been able to play since.


Because of that, Murphy also picking up an injury (which has kept him out of action since early November) and Almirón's recent performances, this has even left fans crying about the summer sale of Allan Saint-Maximin. Let's face it, if he was still here, there's no chance he doesn't get injured either considering that he missed 46 league games through injury and illness in his four years here (including around 24.6% of our league games in between Eddie Howe's appointment and his departure). Besides, Barnes scored 13 league goals in his final season for Leicester (despite the Foxes suffering relegation) whilst Saint-Maximin only netted 12 in his time here and even under Howe, put in plenty of frustrating performances.


Ideally, I'd have liked to have kept the Frenchman but if we needed to sell someone with good value to help with FFP (let's face it, our players that are surplus to requirements would never go for anywhere near the amount as the likes of Fabinho and N'Golo Kante did last summer) then he was going to be a lot less of a loss than anyone else we could've sold for big money. I've even seen people cry about Gordon being preferred to him despite his impressive campaign so far and the fact he's already overtaken Saint-Maximin's best league goals tally in a season (and is only five away from his overall tally over four years after only 11 months here). It's one thing talking about selling other players that aren't in Howe's plans but it's another things convincing clubs to pay the wages that they'd want for them to move there permanently (although Ryan Fraser's performances on loan at Southampton give me more confidence that we can get him off the books before his contract expires in 2025).


People have also been talking about some of the players that West Ham United, Tottenham Hotspur, Aston Villa and Liverpool signed in summer that have done well for them. What seems to be forgotten is the money that they have made from selling players. Despite the money they spent on Mohammed Kudus, Edson Álvarez and James Ward-Prowse, the Hammers actually made a profit of £17,000,000, helped by selling academy graduate Declan Rice to Arsenal for £105,000,000 and being able to receive £22,500,000 from Atalanta for Gianluca Scamacca despite the Italian striker only netting eight goals in 27 games in all competitions in his only season in East London.


James Maddison was someone we were linked with for a while before he ended up at Spurs for £40,000,000 and got three goals and nine assists in 12 games in all competitions until he picked up an ankle injury in early November. Despite Ange Postecoglou's side having no European football this season, he still preferred a move to London over the North-East and whilst they have had a net spent of £103,400,000 (which included buying Dejan Kulusevski and Pedro Porro after their loan spells), they also received £86,400,000 from Bayern Munich for Harry Kane.


Moussa Diaby also has three goals and nine assists in all competitions since his £51,900,000 move to Villa (although he has played 14 more games) but if people are talking about us not coughing up the money then it's worth remembering that what the West Midlands outfit spent on players (£84,900,000) is less that our total net spent (£88,600,000). They have also received £41,500,000 from player sales, including a combined £30,000,000 for academy graduates Aaron Ramsey and Cameron Archer and like Eddie Howe, Unai Emery has also gotten the best out of players that were there before him as well as players that have joined since.


As for Liverpool, the main signing people have said we should've signed is Dominik Szoboszlai, who was also linked with us. The Reds activated his £60,000,000 release clause shortly before it was due to expire (at which point, we could've looked to negotiate signing him for a lower fee) but to pay it all up front, they reportedly had to take out a bank loan and that's even with them generating more money that us through things like player sales and Champions League money in recent years. Despite them only qualifying for the Europa League, the Hungarian always preferred a move to Anfield, having already had a tattoo of a Steven Gerrard quote on his arm and has been vocal in his praise of Jürgen Klopp in the past. Additionally, whilst three of those four clubs have also European football this season, having to deal with the Champions League is a lot tougher than having to deal the Europa League or Europa Conference League.


Sorry for the rant but I felt the need to say something about it. Anyway, going forward, the January window is never an easy window to sign players but in recent years, we have seen plenty of January signings come in and play a big part in us arguably doing better in the second half of the season than the first half, even if some of them were seen as underwhelming loan signings that were typical of the Mike Ashley era. Hopefully, this will be the case again and despite the disappointment of how our European and Carabao Cup campaigns ended, the fact it means we won't have to play as many games can only help us for the rest of the season but hopefully, we won't get so much bad luck with players being unavailable if we are in Europe again next season. Getting Joe Willock, Harvey Barnes and Jacob Murphy back from injury will also be such a boost for us.


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