Newcastle’s new-look XI: Major upgrades at full-back and Brazilian flair in midfield


As Newcastle fans waved flags and scarves, and enjoyed a beer or two outside St James’ Park when the Saudi £305million takeover was confirmed, dream teams began to be envisioned ahead of the January transfer window.

The world’s biggest stars could, theoretically, descend on Tyneside to form a super team that would frighten the Big Six. 

In the end it was just shy of £90m that got spent and five new faces through the door, one of which is one loan through to the end of the season. 

Newcastle splashed almost £90m in January on the likes of Chris Wood and Kieran Trippier

It was a solid window that addressed some of their problem positions.  

At £13m, Dan Burn fills their primary concern which was a new centre back, while boss Eddie Howe has now upgraded both full-back positions in Kieran Trippier (£12m) and Matt Targett (loan).

Deadline day didn’t quite go to plan – Manchester United put a Jesse Lingard-shaped spanner in the works – but the key thing is that Newcastle walk into February stronger than they did heading into January. 

With that in mind, Sportsmail looks at how a fully-fit Newcastle side could now line up following the close of the transfer window… 

NEWCASTLE UNITED (4-4-3) 

GOALKEEPER 

Martin Dubravka

Had one or two things played out differently on deadline day, this would be a spot for Dean Henderson.

Newcastle held talks with Manchester United at the weekend regarding a loan deal for Henderson, although Sportsmail understands a move for the English stopper is more likely in the summer. 

This Toon side will continue to evolve with the wealth of the owners not going anywhere any time soon.

For now it will be Dubravka between the sticks and fans will hope he can use the clean sheet away at Leeds as a catalyst for change.

Having been out following surgery earlier in the season, the 33-year-old has rarely shown his best form, not helped by having such a leaky defence in front of him, in fairness. 

Prior to that clean sheet at Leeds he had shipped 14 goals in 6 games and alarm bells were ringing. 

But Dubravka has shown he is a talented goalkeeper and while not the most commanding presence in his box, can hold up his end of the bargain in this relegation fight. 

Talks were held over Dean Henderson but Martin Dubravka remains a solid goalkeeping option

Talks were held over Dean Henderson but Martin Dubravka remains a solid goalkeeping option

RIGHT BACK 

Kieran Trippier

This felt a real coup – and at just £12m, too.

With all due respect to Emil Krafth, Jacob Murphy and Javier Manquillo, Eddie Howe has gone and significantly upgraded his side at right back.

Bringing in an England international in Trippier will help no end on and off the pitch.

The LaLiga title winner brings real leadership to a group that has looked lacking in that department for a long while now. 

Howe and Trippier worked together at Burnley and the 31-year-old will be one of the ones the Toon boss turns to in getting his message across. 

‘I wanted a project and a challenge. I’m brave, I don’t see this as a risk,’ Trippier said, after becoming the first signing of Newcastle’s Saudi era. 

‘I’ve got my reasons, I know them, and money isn’t one of them. I’m excited.’

This relegation fight will be no picnic but more often than not quality shines through and Trippier has plenty.

Bringing in someone as experienced and accomplished as Trippier represents a major coup

Bringing in someone as experienced and accomplished as Trippier represents a major coup

CENTRE BACK

Jamaal Lascelles

Make no bones about it, a new centre back was the No 1 priority for Newcastle in the entire window. 

As much as their were concerns about the spread of goals in the team, leaking them at the rate they have been was only sending them in one direction – to the Championship.

Prior to the window, Howe has preferred a centre back partnership of Lascelles and Fabian Schar and Schar can count himself unfortunate that he has been overlooked for this XI.

When fit, Lascelles is a presence and another leader, the captain of the side, no less. 

It’s a tricky one in that Schar is producing the better form and is more comfortable playing out from the back – something that has become a key part of any Howe team’s DNA.

What a new arrival does do is shake things up and now Lascelles’ place is far from certain.

Pressure will build on captain Jamaal Lascelles (left) with Fabian Schar pushing him in this side

Pressure will build on captain Jamaal Lascelles (left) with Fabian Schar pushing him in this side

CENTRE BACK  

Dan Burn

For a No 1 priority, Newcastle sure left it late to get that craved new centre back in the building. 

Up steps Brighton’s Dan Burn, joining for a modest £13m, which is small change for the richest club in the world. 

Burn won’t have needed much convincing on a switch to St James’ Park. This is, after all, his boyhood club. If anything, it is a dream come true for him.

‘Welcome home, Dan,’ Newcastle legend Alan Shearer tweeted upon conclusion of the deal on deadline day.

The expectation is that Burn will slot straight into a team that is crying out for a mentality shift defensively. 

Burn has earned his stripes, working his way up the divisions before joining Brighton in 2018 and becoming an integral piece of the puzzle under Graham Potter. 

‘I’m buzzing to be here. I never thought I’d be in this position so to be a Newcastle player and to be around St. James’ Park, it’s something I’ve dreamt of since I was a kid,’ Burn said. ‘From sitting in the East Stand as a kid to now, it’s crazy.’

Howe needs passion and fight as much as quality and Burn has it all. A clever buy. 

A new centre back was a No 1 priority in January and Dan Burn's return to Tyneside fits the bill

A new centre back was a No 1 priority in January and Dan Burn’s return to Tyneside fits the bill

LEFT BACK 

Matt Targett

A loan deal that solves another problem position. 

It was plain to see that had Howe been given longer, say the summer window, we’d see an entirely new defensive line. 

Trippier and Burn are two bits of the puzzle and expect loan arrival Matt Targett to be that man wide on the left.

Lucas Digne’s arrival at Aston Villa left the door ajar for Targett to head out temporarily and he can expect plenty of minutes on Tyneside.

Things have changed quickly for Targett: he started the season as Villa’s No 1 left back, was Dean Smith’s go-to option and yet Digne’s arrival pulled the rug from under him.

‘The team has quality and I’m sure we’ve got enough to stay in the league. I’m always happy to play. I’ll give my all for the club,’ he said.

Consistent, if unspectacular, but Targett can be a player Howe is able to rely on. 

Matt Targett arrives on loan but provides a temporary upgrade in this bitter relegation battle

Matt Targett arrives on loan but provides a temporary upgrade in this bitter relegation battle

RIGHT CENTRE MID 

Jonjo Shelvey

He may blow hot and cold and can leave fans as frustrated as he can leave them excited, but Shelvey remains a key building block for what Howe is trying to do in the north east. 

It was his winning goal at Leeds that secured just a second win of the season and for Howe, Shelvey is the man he wants everything running through.

‘He’s the central player in the team,’ Howe said after the Leeds win. 

‘He’s the supplier in possession. He starts a lot of our attacks. He’s got a really good eye and a really good range of passing.’

Previous managers have struggled to unlock him and his work-rate has come into question, but no such concerns have surfaced in Howe’s tenure. 

There are 17 matches to go and Shelvey will play a key role in deciding whether they survive or go down. 

A fit and firing Shelvey is bad news for Newcastle’s relegation rivals. 

Jonjo Shelvey (left) is a player that Newcastle will look to build around as he can dictate games

Jonjo Shelvey (left) is a player that Newcastle will look to build around as he can dictate games

CENTRAL MIDFIELD 

Bruno Guimaraes

The jewel in the January crown. 

While Newcastle fans may have joked about Kylian Mbappe, Neymar, Lionel Messi, Robert Lewandowski and Co when the takeover was confirmed, here is a move that makes sense, and yet still remains a real coup.

The basic stats simply don’t tell the full story of the Brazilian international’s quality.

Three assists and no goals for Lyon in Ligue 1 this season suggests a busted flush but Guimaraes’ quality all comes down to his ability to dictate matches.

In Ligue 1 this season, no player has completed more through balls (10) or made more passes into the final third (150) than Guimaraes.

He’s technically very, very gifted and he is comfortable when pressed, which is the difference between good and great players at Premier League level.  

‘Bruno is a hugely exciting talent and has been one of our primary targets so I’m delighted to secure him,’ Howe said. 

‘He strengthens the group immediately ready for the challenge ahead. He has been one of the standout performers in France and is a full international for Brazil so I have no doubt our supporters will really enjoy watching him.’  

Newcastle United completed the signing of Brazilian playmaker Bruno Guimareas from Lyon

Newcastle United completed the signing of Brazilian playmaker Bruno Guimareas from Lyon

LEFT CENTRE MID 

Joelinton

If anyone was expected to be dumped unceremoniously as part of a new era it would have been Joelinton.

And yet Howe likes him – a lot. He likes the Brazilian’s work-rate, his versatility, his attitude, his application and the once £40m ‘flop’ has been transformed in a new midfield role. 

Operating in a No 8 midfield role, rather than as the No 9 striker, Joelinton has looked far more impressive and Howe has been delighted that his man ‘covers every blade of grass’ in matches. 

Joelinton’s selflessness is now an asset, rather than a hindrance, and while players like Joe Willock will count themselves unfortunate if they cannot break into the team, it seems hard to make a strong case to relegate Joelinton to the bench.

‘We really, really like him; I think he’s got a good mix of physicality, technical ability and tactical intelligence,’ Howe said in December. 

Easily one of Howe’s biggest success stories in the north east to date. 

Eddie Howe (left) has transformed Joelinton (right) from a misfiring striker to a No 8 midfielder

Eddie Howe (left) has transformed Joelinton (right) from a misfiring striker to a No 8 midfielder

RIGHT WING 

Ryan Fraser

It is fair to say that Howe found himself sweating as Fraser limped through the closing stages of the win at Leeds. 

He seems fine – he scored during a match out in Saudi Arabia as part of a warm-weather training camp – and should Howe persist with a 4-3-3 system then it is Fraser that makes the most sense wide on the right. 

With his fitness continuing to find its way back, he looks more of a threat and while he may not be the most glamorous of names, his quality is undeniable. 

Lest we forget this was a player who, working under Howe at Bournemouth, was generating interest from Tottenham. 

Important to remember as well that Fraser and Callum Wilson work well together and it is all about maximising the striker’s effectiveness. 

Surrounded by a higher quality of player will see Fraser raise his game and so don’t bank on the Scot being cast aside any time soon.  

Ryan Fraser (left) has the trust of Howe and his link-up down the right makes him a solid option

Ryan Fraser (left) has the trust of Howe and his link-up down the right makes him a solid option

CENTRE FORWARD 

Callum Wilson

This is not so much a dilemma but a conversation, no doubt.

When fit, Callum Wilson is the starting No 9 at Newcastle United. That much most fans would seem to agree on.

Chris Wood has come in for £25m but it can be argued that he is being used as cover, with Wilson sidelined since a draw against Manchester United.

Newcastle are wealthy enough to have big-money backup and while Howe may incorporate both in certain line-ups, perhaps switching to a 4-4-2 or 3-5-2, Wilson remains the primary striking option. 

It is true that Newcastle did want more goals. They were pushing for Reims striker Hugo Ekitike, only to see that slip through the net.

As did a move for Lingard – who Sportsmail revealed was keen to move away from Old Trafford despite Newcastle’s lowly position in the table.

Fraser and Wilson work well in tandem and the last attacking spot can only go to one man… 

Callum Wilson (left) remains the primary striking option even with Wood's £25million arrival

Callum Wilson (left) remains the primary striking option even with Wood’s £25million arrival

LEFT WING  

Allan Saint-Maximin

Despite some criticism surfacing from a pocket of the fan-base, including Saint-Maximin is a total no brainer here. 

The Frenchman is Newcastle’s most potent attacker so far this season with involvement in eight goals.

He has five goals and three assists so far, taking him past his total in the previous two seasons in fewer matches, too. 

Look, he can be frustrating, most technically skillful, flamboyant players are. 

But when it works, and he is in full flight, opposition defenders are terrified. 

Saint-Maximin has that game-changing ability in his boots that can ignite a game that looks to be slipping away from Newcastle. 

While someone like Fraser is perhaps viewed as more reliable, Saint-Maximin is the magic man that fans have come to love since he arrived in 2019. 

Allan Saint-Maximin (left) has the magic that can turn a game on his head and that is priceless

Allan Saint-Maximin (left) has the magic that can turn a game on his head and that is priceless

POST-JANUARY NEWCASTLE XI 

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