The Premier League season has concluded with Newcastle finishing in 12th after a resurgent run in the latter half of the season. The renewed Premiership status brings questions about the futures of several players, which I will attempt to answer using data.
- Martin Dubravka, 32-years-old, 2025 expiry - Keep
- Karl Darlow, 30, 2025 - Sell
- Freddie Woodman, 24, 2023 - Keep
- Mark Gillespie, 29, 2023 - Keep
The biggest question is what to do with Karl Darlow. He became the starter after Dubravka was hurt in preseason and had a strong run of form before dipping later in the season and being unceremoniously dropped in favor of Dubravka again. Darlow saved -0.16 goals less than expected per 90 minutes by the end of the season. Dubravka saved 0.11 goals more than expected in comparison. Clubs in the Championship and at the lower end of the Premier League would likely be interested in Darlow. Getting a fee for him makes sense as he is over 30 now and his future at the club is uncertain given he isn’t the starter.
Freddie Woodman won the Golden Glove award in the Championship while he was on loan at Swansea City who lost in the promotion playoff final. Although clean sheets are a dubious stat, he has reportedly impressed on loan. It would make sense to keep him as a young backup while preparing him to start when Dubravka eventually leaves/retires/dips in performance.
Mark Gillespie was signed on a free transfer from Motherwell in Scotland in a return to his boyhood club in 2020. The move made sense to add a cup keeper and his wages are some of the lowest in the squad. It’s a no-brainer to retain him as a depth option.
- Jamaal Lascelles, 27, 2024 - Keep
- Fabian Schar, 29, 2022 - Extend
- Ciaran Clark, 31, 2023 - Sell
- Federico Fernandez, 32, 2021 - Extend
- Florian Lejeune, 30, 2022 - Sell
- Jamal Lewis, 23, 2025 - Keep
- Matt Ritchie, 31, 2023 - Keep
- Emil Krafth, 26, 2023 - Keep
- Javier Manquillo, 27, 2024 - Keep
The center backs in the squad are on the older side and several have contracts nearing their end. My first inclination was to let Federico Fernandez’s contract expire. But the data suggested my impression was wrong. Despite being the oldest of the group he ranked near the top in defending stats such as % of dribblers tackled, tackles won, blocks, clearances and had one of the lower rates of errors leading to shots. A short term deal could make sense for both Newcastle and Fernandez.
Ciaran Clark on the other hand averaged more than twice the number of errors per 90 than anyone else in Newcastle’s squad. He also had the lowest % of dribblers tackled out of the five center backs. Clark is not very reliable for someone who also fails to add a passing threat. He is over the age of thirty with two years remaining on his contract, now is the time to sell.
As you can see, Clark and Fernandez are similar stylistically. But as mentioned earlier Fernandez is a more reliable defender against dribblers and commits fewer errors.
Florian Lejeune seemed to enjoy his time on loan at Deportivo Alaves. Lejeune played 88% of Alaves minutes this season and has just one year remaining on his contract. With injury problems in the past and being 30 years old, it doesn’t make sense for Newcastle to offer him a new contract. He is a well-rounded defender, but the Magpies need a refresh in his position in both age and talent.
In a perfect world, Emil Krafth would also be sold. But his ability to play center back in a back three as well as at right-back (against lower league opposition) makes him a useful squad option. Newcastle is thin at right-back after Deandre Yedlin’s departure in the January transfer window. Jacob Murphy has played at times on the right side of defense but he is far from a natural fit in a back four. Another option should be brought in this summer on the right flank to compete with Javier Manquillo.
The potential departures of Lejeune and Clark should allow for a new signing in defense. Chelsea’s Marc Guehi has been linked recently which would be a solid addition to an aging backline. Guehi spent the past two seasons on loan at Swansea City and is 20-years-old.
Matt Ritchie surged back into the team after nearly leaving for Bournemouth in the January transfer window. He took the left wingback role from Jamal Lewis who struggled in his first season at Newcastle. Ritchie’s ball-playing ability has been a valuable asset for a team that struggles to create chances. I have been a Ritchie skeptic in the past but it’s clear his crossing volume and efficiency are invaluable to the team.
- Isaac Hayden, 26, 2026 - Keep
- Sean Longstaff, 23, 2022 - Extend
- Jonjo Shelvey, 29, 2023 - Keep
- Jeff Hendrick, 29, 2024 - Sell
- Matthew Longstaff, 21, 2022 - Extend
- Joe Willock, 21, Loan Ended - Buy
The signing of Jeff Hendrick on a free transfer in 2020 was a thrifty move that added depth to the engine room. But the problem is, Hendrick isn’t very good. He doesn’t add much to the midfield because he’s not an incisive passer or a ball winner. He just kinda exists. Which is fine except he took minutes from Newcastle’s academy products Sean and Matthew Longstaff. Both of whom will not be satisfied with their lesser roles in the team.
Especially Matthew who nearly left for Watford after last season before a last ditch two-year extension was accepted. Unless a central midfielder departs it’s difficult to see both Longstaffs wanting to stay. That’s why Steve Bruce should commit to playing younger players and make a statement by selling Hendrick this summer. For either of the Longstaff brothers to renew they need to know they will be a major part of the team. Matthew’s ceiling is so much higher than Hendrick and he is eight years younger! Jetro Willems once called Matthew the most talented player at Newcastle United. It would be a shame to see either of the Longstaffs depart after coming through the Newcastle academy. Sean has more of a stable presence in the team and would be the more likely of the two to stay long term.
Joe Willock’s impact as a January loan signing was immense. He scored in seven consecutive games to end the season and added a completely new dimension to the midfield. Willock’s production in expected goals + expected assists was in the 97th percentile for midfielders in Europe’s Top 5 Leagues this season. His dribbling, progressive passes received and pressures all ranked in the 91st percentile or higher as well. I cannot emphasize enough that Newcastle should be all over this deal. Arsenal would be willing to sell in the region of $25 million. It would be a worthwhile investment and Willock’s previous experience at Newcastle would make the transition easier as opposed to a different signing. You’re not going to find another player who fits Willock’s profile at his age. The price would be a little steep but hardly unreasonable and as we all know Newcastle have paid more in the past for a lesser player.
- Miguel Almiron, 27, 2024 - Sell
- Allan Saint-Maximin, 24, 2026 - Keep
- Ryan Fraser, 27, 2025 - Keep
- Jacob Murphy, 26, 2021 - Extend
I love Miguel Almiron. But the reality is playing with an attacking midfielder is a luxury that Newcastle cannot afford under Steve Bruce or frankly most other managers. He is often shunted onto the wing or more recently into central midfield. His work-rate and pace are valuable but his lack of crossing or 1v1 dribbling skills make him an awkward fit in many situations. It could make sense to cash in on him before injuries or a further slump in form.
Almiron’s agent said he was unhappy at Newcastle earlier this season and said he would’ve been at Inter Milan or Atletico Madrid if not for the pandemic. He still is valuable when played out of position but players who rely on pace and effort as much as Almiron depreciate faster as they age. The sale of Almiron could fund the purchase of Joe Willock who can play as both a box-to-box and attacking midfielder.
Jacob Murphy’s reemergence on Tyneside has come with a shift in position. Murphy was most often deployed as a right-sided wingback in the 5-3-2. He typically plays as a more traditional winger but excelled in the more defensive role. Murphy’s crossing and dead ball ability complimented Matt Ritchie on the opposite flank well. He has proved himself worthy of a new contract this season with his versatility and production.
- Callum Wilson, 29, 2024 - Keep
- Joelinton, 24, 2025 - Keep
- Dwight Gayle, 31, 2024 - Keep
- Andy Carroll, 32, 2021 - Expire
- Yoshinori Muto, 28, 2022 - Sell
Dwight Gayle is firmly a backup at Newcastle. His prolific goalscoring record in the Championship makes him an attractive prospect for clubs in the second division. Newcastle would do well to recoup a fee for the 31-year-old striker given his diminished role and high wages. However, if Newcastle want to limit some of the turnover this offseason, retaining Gayle wouldn’t be the worst idea in the world.
Andy Carroll was barely an option by the end of the season and his time in the Premier League may be over, releasing him would be prudent. Yoshinori Muto is the definition of deadwood and his loan spell at Eibar was unremarkable with one goal and one assists in 1,122 minutes in La Liga.
Newcastle would require a third striker for depth and former Magpie Adam Armstrong has been thriving in the Championship with Blackburn. Newcastle have a 40% sell-on clause which would lower the asking price significantly. Armstrong had 28 goals and 5 assists in 40 matches. That’s 0.73 goals and 0.13 assists per 90 minutes, elite stuff even in the second division.
This summer will likely see a lot of turnover in the dressing room. Locking down Newcastle’s young core in midfield will be key. Signings will be needed to refresh both the backline and the striker group. For incoming transfers to be made Newcastle may have to sell some fan-favorites to increase their shoestring budget. Savvy decisions will be required to avoid another relegation scrap in 2021/22.
Note: Stats via Football Reference from StatsBomb. Contract information sourced from Transfermarkt and The Athletic.