How can Newcastle United bolster their squad after securing a place in the Champions League?
With the 2022-23 Premier League season officially over, Newcastle United fans can officially say their club will be in the Champions League. The Magpies return to Europe for the first time for over a decade, with Eddie Howe transforming a side destined for relegation to a hardworking, drilled unit that will now compete with some of the best teams across the continent.
Indeed, securing top four football seemed a pipedream 18 months ago at St. James’ Park. However, the financial war chest granted by the new Saudi Arabian owners ensured Howe could turn his side’s odds with football betting sites around. It’s perhaps come ahead of schedule in terms of their roadmap for success, but the Geordies have quickly forgotten the League Cup final loss to Manchester United, as they gear up for some big nights as underdogs amongst the Champions League odds.
The best thing about Howe’s time at Newcastle has been his recruitment. It would be easy to throw the chequebook at world-class players and while the Photoshopped edits of Kylian Mbappe in front of the Gallowgate End were amusing, the way Howe carefully picked a combination of Premier League stalwarts, and sprinkled in some quality from abroad deserves major credit.
The dressing room is clearly tight-knit and that togetherness can compensate for a lack of squad depth in some departments, but as the schedule gets even busier and the Magpies look to establish themselves as top-four regulars, they’ll need to fine-tune the balance between improving the squad and dealing with the departures of the old guard.
No doubt Champions League football brings Howe extra pulling power in the transfer market. The riches of the Saudi consortium and the passion of the home crowd has been enough to entice the likes of Bruno Guimarães and Alexander Isak to St. James’ in recent years, and now seems the best time for Newcastle to add to a number of positions. While Miguel Almiron and Jacob Murphy have enjoyed purple patches of form throughout the campaign, you feel there needs to be another truly elite winger to provide competition for places, but Howe has insisted that finishing in the top-four hasn’t changed the bulk of his summer plans.
“We’ll have to produce a squad for the Champions League,” he said. “So top four won’t change the amount of numbers [we bring in]. As I’ve said, it won’t be a lot of numbers and a lot of big moves in. Hopefully it’ll be the right two or three players to make us better.
“Yes, there would be players we’d love to bring in that would be classified in that bracket [as a marquee signing], I’m sure. For me, it’s more about the role they can fulfil in the team – whether that’s viewed positively or as a marquee signing, then great. I’m not in my mind thinking, ‘We have to have one of those players that ticks that box for the supporters’. As much as I’d love to do that, it’s about finding the right player in the right position who I think makes us better.”
With the likes of James Maddison, Kieran Tierney and Dominik Szoboszlai all linked with moves to Newcastle, it will be interesting to see the Magpies’ summer plans. Only time will tell if they can assemble a squad that is able to compete amongst the likes of Barcelona and Real Madrid, or if their European adventure was simply a product of overachieving and end as a flash in the pan.