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Newcastle United: How could Eddie Howe’s side line up after January?

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After being unveiled to the media last week, Eddie Howe can now turn his attentions to matters on the pitch with Newcastle United.

The 43-year-old is in the middle of two weeks on the training ground with his new charges as he looks to lift the club out of its perilous position in the Premier League relegation zone. 

His first objective will be to take advantage of a particularly inviting run of fixtures, which includes home clashes with Brentford, Norwich and Burnley, and a trip to Arsenal squeezed in between. 

Beyond that, though, there is no doubt that there will be one eye on the transfer window on Tyneside.

Eddie Howe has been appointed as Steve Bruce's successor as Newcastle United manager

Eddie Howe has been appointed as Steve Bruce’s successor as Newcastle United manager

Newcastle are languishing down in 19th after failing to win any of their opening 11 matches

Newcastle are languishing down in 19th after failing to win any of their opening 11 matches

Given the recent Saudi-backed takeover, Newcastle now have access to essentially unlimited funds, with only Financial Fair Play rules to inhibit them.

That has given rise to mounting speculation as to possible additions at St James’ Park this winter, with some names cropping up more often than others. 

With Eddie Howe wanting to implement his own philosophy, new recruits will need to be able to fit into his system. At Bournemouth he regularly played with an adapted 4-4-2 formation – in reality a 4-4-1-1.

With Steve Bruce having tried, and largely failed, to implement a back four in a bid to try and get Newcastle on the front foot, it will be hoped that a more nuanced technician can get the plan to click.

Here, Sportsmail takes in the possible January transfer targets for the Magpies and, all being well, how they could line up for the vital second half of the season.  

NEWCASTLE UNITED (4-4-1-1)

GOALKEEPER

Dean Henderson 

Newcastle’s No 1 spot has been up for grabs this season for various reasons. 

England Under-21 international Freddie Woodman was given his shot at the beginning of the season with Martin Dubravka out following surgery on a foot injury and Karl Darlow struggling with Covid. 

Unfortunately for Woodman he failed to impress, with Darlow reinstated as soon as he returned to action. Dubravka is now back, too, and has taken his place on the bench. 

Dean Henderson is looking to leave Manchester United if he is not promoted to being No 1

Dean Henderson is looking to leave Manchester United if he is not promoted to being No 1

But it still feels like a position that no player has tied down, nor does it feel like there is any great longevity in either Darlow and Dubravka. At the age of 31 and 32 respectively, neither are by any means on their way out as far as their position goes, but neither can be seen as indispensable to this Newcastle side.

Dubravka’s initial impact at St James’ Park has waned, with uncharacteristic errors creeping into his game, a trait that was also noticeable at last summer’s Euros when appearing for Slovakia. 

A more commanding presence in goal is not something the club would turn their nose up at then, and the availability of Dean Henderson from Manchester United would certainly fir that bill. 

As reported exclusively by Sportsmail, the England shot-stopper wants to leave Manchester United if he cannot oust David de Gea as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s No 1 and Newcastle is a genuine option should he decide to push his way out.  

RIGHT BACK

Javier Manquillo

One man who could well benefit from Howe’s preferred tactics, Manquillo has established himself as first choice at right back when a back four is called upon.

He is by no means an integral part of the first XI – brought in by Rafa Benitez, Manquillo was seen as something of a utility player who could fill in on either flank at the back.

His role was supposed to be further diminished by the arrival of Jamal Lewis in the summer of 2020 from Norwich. However, despite gaining plenty of first-team experience, the Northern Ireland international has failed to hold down the role. 

The Spaniard, on the other hand, has proved somewhat more sturdy in defensive situations – though is prone to the odd lapse. It is his attacking ability that has actually caught the eye this season, laying on two goals from right back so far, while he also scored at Old Trafford.

His penchant for getting higher up to the pitch will suit Howe, who likes his sides to press high and wide. Whether he can make himself a part of the long-term thinking is entirely up to the 27-year-old’s ability to adapt under his new head coach.

Javier Manquillo's attacking tendencies could endear him to Howe and secure him game-time

Javier Manquillo’s attacking tendencies could endear him to Howe and secure him game-time

CENTRE BACK 

James Tarkowski 

Newcastle’s interest in Burnley and England centre back James Tarkowski has perhaps been the worst-kept secret in regards to transfer targets.

The defender’s name appeared across various sources in the early days of the takeover and he continues to be linked.

While there is little question of whether Newcastle are interested, the prospect of Burnley entertaining any offer is a lot less certain. 

Newcastle’s needs are clear – defensive solidity is something that has been sorely lacking this season, with only basement boys Norwich (26) conceding more than Newcastle’s 24 in the top flight. 

Tarkowski fits the brief of the type of player that will appeal because he is out of contract in the summer, weakening Burnley’s negotiating power in January, and he is Premier League proven to go straight into the team. 

The Telegraph reported that Tarkowski is keen on a move to the north-east and so it would seem a no brainer. Burnley would get some financial return before he left for nothing, Newcastle get a solid top-flight centre back and Tarkowski gets a new challenge. 

James Tarkowski (right) is Premier League proven and could slot straight in if he was signed

James Tarkowski (right) is Premier League proven and could slot straight in if he was signed

CENTRE BACK

Jamaal Lascelles 

As captain of the football club it seems highly improbable that Howe will completely cast him aside come the end of the January window. 

He hasn’t been at the level required – obvious given he is leading the second worst defence in the league – but a new manager cleans the slate and he needs to step up.

Talk of refreshing at centre back, with the likes of Tarkowski on the radar, could give Lascelles a shot in the arm to return to the form that saw him elevated to captain. 

He has long proven popular with supporters and while he appears to have lost his way, Lascelles should look at how Howe improved Nathan Ake at Bournemouth to the point where he secured a big-money move to Manchester City. 

A big few months ahead for the 27-year-old.  

Club captain Jamaal Lascelles (right) can wipe the slate clean with Howe replacing Bruce

Club captain Jamaal Lascelles (right) can wipe the slate clean with Howe replacing Bruce

LEFT BACK

Matt Ritchie

One of the players Howe could likely lean on in the early days is Ritchie, having worked together in his previous job at Bournemouth.   

The 32-year-old winger turned full-back joined Newcastle from the Cherries in the summer of 2016 under then-boss Rafa Benitez for a fee in the region of £10m. 

But the Scot could barely hide his delight when it emerged a reunion with Howe was to be on the cards recently.  

‘My time with him was fantastic, I loved every minute,’ Ritchie told BBC Sport. 

‘We have a young hungry group here and I am sure he can bring out the best in them.

‘What he did at Bournemouth was nothing short of a miracle. I have all the praise in the world for him.’ 

Long-term the likes of Ritchie will find themselves swapped out for flashier signings but in January, given his affinity with the club and his rapport with Howe, expect him to play a meaningful role.  

Matt Ritchie (left) worked with Howe when at Bournemouth and the Scot is relishing a reunion

Matt Ritchie (left) worked with Howe when at Bournemouth and the Scot is relishing a reunion

RIGHT WING

Ismaila Sarr 

Now we’re starting to spend some serious cash. 

Sportsmail exclusively revealed last month that Sarr has been eyed up by the new Saudi regime as one of the first marquee signings in January.

Granted, Watford, who also find themselves in a relegation fight, are unlikely to consider a deal mid-season for the 23-year-old, who they believe is one of the top talents in the division, but never say never. 

Watford believe their star man has the potential to reach a similar level to Jack Grealish, who left Aston Villa to join Manchester City last summer for a British record £100million. 

Sarr is Watford’s top scorer in the league this season and his stock remains high even with the Hornets struggling but with Newcastle keen to spend and make a splash in the market, Watford need to be sensible in their decisions around any offers. 

The Senegal star joined Watford from Rennes in summer 2019 in a deal worth up to £40m, signing a five-year contract and so there is no pressure to sell.

But the money being banded around, between £50-70m could allow boss Claudio Ranieri to make a number of important additions in a bid to keep them up. 

One to watch. 

Sportsmail exclusively revealed last month that Ismaila Sarr is high up on Newcastle's wishlist

Sportsmail exclusively revealed last month that Ismaila Sarr is high up on Newcastle’s wishlist

CENTRAL MIDFIELD 

Marcelo Brozovic

What an addition this would be.

Similarly to Tarkowski, Brozovic finds himself out of contract at the end of the season and Inter Milan have so far found it impossible to get him on fresh terms. 

Reports in Italy detailed growing frustrations in Milan that the midfielder’s entourage have postponed meetings where contract negotiations would have taken place, delaying the process so much that come January he could leave or sign a pre-contract agreement outside of Italy.

The 28-year-old Croatian has been touted as having interest from Manchester United, who need a defensive midfielder, Tottenham given he previously worked with their new boss Antonio Conte, and French giants Paris Saint-Germain.

As much as Sarr would catch the eye, getting Brozovic out of last season’s Serie A champions would be a real head-turner for the new Saudi owners given his pedigree.  

Brozovic has been with Inter since 2016 when he joined from Dinamo Zagreb and he has gone on to make more than 250 appearances.

He has title-winning experience, is also a runner-up in both the Europa League, with Inter, and the 2018 World Cup, with Croatia.   

Newcastle need a player who can sit in the middle of the park, break up play and dictate games to give them a foothold in matches. Brozovic could fill that role perfectly.  

Marcelo Brozovic is out of contract next summer and would be a major coup for Newcastle

Marcelo Brozovic is out of contract next summer and would be a major coup for Newcastle

CENTRAL MIDFIELD

Joe Willock

It is fair to say that no-one transformed Newcastle last season quite like Willock.

Seven goals in his final seven games, often coming off the bench, was incredible and capped off a brilliant loan from Arsenal, which became permanent in August. 

That is the level Willock set himself for coaches and for supporters and while he hasn’t got anywhere near those heights this season – the side haven’t won and he is yet to score – Howe will have been encouraged by the 22-year-old’s showreel.

He provides energy when those around him look lethargic and with someone as disciplined as Brozovic next to him, it would allow Willock more freedom to get forward and try to break the lines between midfield and defence.

Willock is said to have been playing through the pain barrier this season so first off it is imperative he returns to full fitness.

From there, Howe won’t need telling twice that Willock is an ascending star and a player than can grow with the club. Expect him to become a focal point.  

At 22, Joe Willock is an ascending star and Howe will know exactly what he is capable of doing

At 22, Joe Willock is an ascending star and Howe will know exactly what he is capable of doing

LEFT WING 

Joelinton

While £40m is a drop in the ocean to the new Saudi owners, Howe won’t have the luxury of ripping up his whole squad in one window and finding a solution for Joelinton seems an easier proposition than finding a buyer.

The Brazilian has failed to find a position that suits him since arriving at St James’ Park but as the club’s record signing, expect Howe to persist with finding his best fit.

Many have long faced facts that Newcastle are only guaranteed to go one way if Joelinton plays as a striker for much longer. 

Just six Premier League goals in 79 games is abysmal for a top-flight forward and so deploying him wide on the left may prove to be the answer. 

He spent some time out on the left for Hoffenheim in Germany during his time in the Bundesliga and so it seems worth a try. 

Having proved he’s mobile, got some pace about him, plus the fact selling him would bring a massive loss, don’t expect much talk of Joelinton going anywhere. 

Howe may well persist in trying to find a role which can get the best out of Joelinton (left)

Howe may well persist in trying to find a role which can get the best out of Joelinton (left)

SECOND STRIKER

Allan Saint-Maximin

Comfortably Newcastle’s best player right now and Howe knows that. 

‘Really, really pleased to be working with Maxi,’ Howe told Sky recently.

‘I think he is a very, very unique talent. Game winner, match winner, a real difference maker for us.

‘First and foremost, we have to find a way to function as a team, to get the best out of him. But he has to also contribute to the team, the two things go hand in hand. So, really excited to try and figure out ways to get him to play at his best levels.’

Saint-Maximin gets people off their seats at St James’ and as Howe said, he’s a difference maker. 

He started brilliantly, netting two goals and adding three assists in his opening six Premier League games of the season. 

But having blanked in the last five, it is imperative Howe builds a side for the second half of the season the maximises Saint-Maximin’s talents.  

Allan Saint-Maximin has impressed Howe already and he can be this side's brightest player

Allan Saint-Maximin has impressed Howe already and he can be this side’s brightest player 

CENTRE FORWARD 

Callum Wilson 

Like Ritchie, another player who has previously thrived under Howe is Wilson and he will be delighted to be reunited with his former Bournemouth boss. 

The pair have a great relationship and it proved richly successful on the south coast.

Wilson is reported to have put in a word, along with Ritchie and winger Ryan Fraser, on Howe’s behalf to the owners which is likely to have earned even more credit in the bank. 

Howe has previously talked up Wilson’s ‘unique attributes’ and while long-term there are expected to be some big-name striking additions, Wilson is a reliable goalscorer at this level and Howe simply needs to deliver a playing style which can get him and Saint-Maximin thriving. 

While some may be looking over the shoulder, Wilson’s place looks more secure than ever with old boss Howe at the helm. 

Callum Wilson (right) put in a word for Howe to Newcastle's owners in their manager search

Callum Wilson (right) put in a word for Howe to Newcastle’s owners in their manager search

POST-JANUARY NEWCASTLE XI 



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