Building a Newcastle United squad meeting major obstacles | OneFootball

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The Mag

·31 January 2023

Building a Newcastle United squad meeting major obstacles

Article image:Building a Newcastle United squad meeting major obstacles

Building a Newcastle United squad fit for purpose is proving to have its issues.

Eddie Howe with a massive job on his hands.

When I say building a Newcastle United squad ‘fit for purpose’, I am of course talking about putting a squad together that can hope to progress and compete, not just trying to survive and crawl from season to season.

As so often is the case, going back to the start is the best place to begin.

Starting point

Eddie Howe arrived in November 2021 and this is what he inherited.

Martin Dubravka, Freddie Woodman, Karl Darlow, Mark Gillespie


Matt Ritchie, Jamal Lewis, Jacob Murphy, Javier Manquillo, Emil Krafth

Fabian Schar, Federico Fernandez, Jamaal Lascelles, Paul Dummett, Ciaran Clark


Jonjo Shelvey, Isaac Hayden, Sean Longstaff, Jeff Hendrick


Allan Saint-Maximin, Miguel Almiron, Ryan Fraser, Joe Willock


Callum Wilson, Joelinton, Dwight Gayle

Difficult to believe that this was the Newcastle United squad just over a year ago, summing up the massive task facing Eddie Howe. Lack of ambition and terrible decision making from Mike Ashley and Steve Bruce had created this, particularly the appalling decision(s) to give so many existing players new lucrative contracts (compared to what their level of ability was, rather than replace them and improve the squad with essential new signings).

Out of those 25 above, I would say Eddie Howe, ideally, would only want the following in his Newcastle United squad when the 2023/24 season kicks off in just over six months time…

Schar, Longstaff, ASM, Almiron, Willock, Joelinton, Wilson

That adds up to only seven of the 25 man senior Newcastle United squad that Eddie Howe inherited.

It isn’t a case of saying the other players are all terrible and / or haven’t played a decent part in the past for Newcastle United.

Just an acknowledgement that what is needed moving forward is a very different level.

Adding signings made since Eddie Howe came in, we are currently left with the following players who I believe the Head Coach will see as the basis of his 2023/24 Newcastle United squad:

Pope, Trippier, Schar, Botman, Burn, Bruno, Longstaff, Willock, Almiron, Joelinton, Wilson, ASM, Isak, Gordon, Targett

You can add Anderson with his potential, whilst if Dubravka is happy to stay as number two to Pope, he is another squad player that could stay on. Ashby is reported to be set to be confirmed today as another new signing so he can be added as well.

After that though I am struggling. Maybe Krafth will be able to give some cover at the back if successfully coming back from injury.

So, plenty of signings needed, if we are to see a Newcastle United squad that is competitive.

However, there are obstacles / issues to confront.

FFP (Financial Fair Play)

Whilst there is this assumption from many that if allowed, the new / current owners of Newcastle United would spend billions on new players. Money no object etc etc in the pursuit of success.

I am not convinced of that personally, at least not to the extent others believe.

However, what I / we do know for sure is that FFP is a major issue for Newcastle United.

Basically, you can only overspend up to a certain amount in any three year period.

You can get around this to an extent in any particular transfer window by spreading any transfer fee over as many seasons as possible, but then the more you do this, the more you gamble / store up potential major problems for the future.

Chelsea are doing this (gambling the future) to a ridiculous degree this season under the new owners, plus of course their current / recent revenues allow them far more leeway than Newcastle United as well.

Basically, for NUFC it is a far bigger gamble at the moment when it comes to FFP, the more they spend big now, in terms of limitations it would impose in future windows.

Of course, if revenues can be significantly raised in the near future that will massively help, but it remains an unknown as things stand, as to just how much the new NUFC owners can raise those revenues.

Which brings us to the Champions League…

What can you offer?

Newcastle United ending up top four at the end of this season would of course open up massive extra revenues for sure. The money that the club would bank directly from competing in the Champions League, PLUS just as importantly, the indirect extra cash, such as from sponsors paying far more for CL club involvement, as compared to one that hasn’t got that on offer.

However, if Champions League football comes the way of Newcastle United, then it also directly impacts on the building of a competitive Newcastle United squad in other ways.

Firstly, more players with more quality will be keen to come to St James’ Park, than would otherwise be the case.

Secondly, the bottom line is that you don’t have top level European football you only have so many potential high level matches for new signings to play in.

If you can offer Premier League AND Champions League football (as well as the lower rated domestic cup competitions) to new signings, they can see how they can get plenty of playing time, with Eddie Howe changing his team a lot more than is the case at the moment.

It is a real chicken and egg situation, you need Champions League football to allow you to build and fund a quality squad, whilst you need (usually) a quality squad to get you Champions League football.

Eddie Howe is currently attempting to make that massive leap forward to finish top four, with a very decent quality team. He hasn’t got the luxury of a very decent quality squad to back that first eleven up.

As I make clear above, we are really talking at the moment about the current first choice eleven and then ASM and Isak who are now finally both looking fully fit, Targett needs to come back from injury, whilst Dubravka has came back from Old Trafford early to give good level keeper back up.

Gordon of course can be a massive help in the second half of this season, with hopefully Ashby as well to a lesser extent.

As we can see, unbelievable progress has already been made in only a year or so under Eddie Howe in terms of building a competitive team and to an extent a more competitive squad. Reality is though that you can’t do everything at once, so now we face the next four or so months knowing that far more than our competitors, injuries in key places could be so damaging without that NUFC squad quality that we can aspire to in the future.

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