A key feature of Newcastle United‘s rise over the last 12 months or so during the PIF regime has been the club’s astute dealings in the transfer market, with the Magpies taking a more measured approach to signings, rather than targeting high-profile, marquee additions.
That was no doubt evident last year as the experienced figures of Dan Burn and Kieran Trippier – among others – were brought in to aid in the bid for survival, before the northeast side again acted wisely over the summer to secure the services of Nick Pope, Sven Botman and Alexander Isak.
That knack for clever business was seemingly again continued in the recent January window, with the Tynesiders securing possible figures for the long-term in the form of Harrison Ashby and Anthony Gordon from West Ham United and Everton, respectively.
Although there may be concerns over the £45m fee that was splashed out on the latter man, that was seemingly an indication of the club’s faith in a player who can thrive at St James’ Park for years to come, with sporting director Dan Ashworth having also managed to secure a reduction on the Toffees’ previous £60m valuation.
With the inexperienced Ashby – who has made just seven senior appearances for the Hammers – coming through the door for a knock-down price of just £3m, it does appear that PIF have again avoided the temptation of unnecessarily splashing the cash.
That being said, however, Newcastle’s ownership may well have made a rare mistake in not strengthening a key area in the winter window, with deadline day having come and gone without the signing of a new central midfielder.
That need for a fresh face in the centre of the park was only heightened by the loss of long-serving playmaker Jonjo Shelvey to Nottingham Forest, with manager Eddie Howe subsequently admitting that his squad may be “light in a couple of areas“.
There had been reports throughout the month that the top-four hopefuls were eyeing a deal for long-term target Conor Gallagher, with the Telegraph’s Luke Edwards (Live feed, 31/01/2023, 14:32) revealing that a last-ditch loan attempt had been made for the Englishman, albeit with Chelsea reluctant to part ways – particularly on a temporary deal.
With no other suitable alternatives having seemingly come available – with Gallagher’s teammate Ruben Loftus-Cheek previously mooted as a possible option – Howe has now been left with limited options in the midfield ranks.
Outside of the regular trio of Joe Willock, Sean Longstaff and Bruno Guimaraes, there is seemingly little quality depth, with resurgent Brazilian, Joelinton – who has featured on the left flank of late – arguably the only other senior option in that position.
While the Magpies do have promising youngster Elliott Anderson as a regular fixture in the first-team, the 20-year-old is still rather untested at Premier League level, having spent last season on loan in League Two with Bristol Rovers.
The fear will be that any injuries or suspensions – including Guimaraes’ recent dismissal against Southampton – in the coming months could derail the club’s top-four charge, with the northeast side potentially set to be left to rue the failure to secure a midfield acquisition on deadline day.
While there is wisdom in not turning to a late, ill-fitting panic buy, Newcastle had seemingly been crying out for a new recruit for months.