Around five hours before flipping the calendar page to February, Newcastle confirmed the arrival of Aston Villa’s defender Matt Targett on loan until the end of the 2022 season. Now, it is Newcastle—manager Eddie Howe, in fact—who just announced Targett’s future with or within St James’ Park confines is still up in the air and won’t get addressed before the season is over on May 22.
You know the story by now. Back at the end of January, all Newcastle had done in 21 Premier League games was earn 15 points with a couple of measly victories, nine draws, and 10 defeats. The goal difference back then sat at minus-22. United had allowed the second-most goals to their rivals while boasting the second-worst goal difference from August to Feb. 1. Yikes. Look at this thing.
It must be said that the Premier League community manager was onto something with that statement.
From the start of February to this very day Newcastle has racked up 28 points (2nd-most) in 13 games played, only behind Liverpool (31 points) and easily above the likes of Arsenal (24) and Manchester City (23)—coincidentally, three of the four teams left on the Magpies schedule. One key factor for that change in form? You guessed it.
Matt Targett arrival changed the defense entirely along fellow incoming players Kieran Trippier and Dan Burn. A product of Southampton academy, He departed Soton in 2017-18 to join Fulham on loan after playing for 43 times for Southampton since debuting with the main squad. Aston Villa pounced later, signing the left-back for the 2019 season and turning him into the player that caught Eddie Howe’s eye last January after donning Villa’s threads 83 times.
It has been reported that Targett arrived in Tyneside with a £15M sell-on fee pre-arranged in case Newcastle wanted to keep Targett after his loan from the Villain club ended at the end of the Premier League campaign. And that’s what is expected to go down in Toon Confines once Newcastle closes their year next May 22 after visiting Burnely in MD38.
Just yesterday, in his pre-match press conference prior to the game against Liverpool today, Eddie Howe shed some light on Targett’s situation and Newcastle’s position... by calming lads down a bit and delaying any potential announcement—which is seemingly not clear yet at board/coach levels—at least until the season is over for the Magpies.
Targett has played 12 matches and 1,080 minutes for Newcastle since his arrival. He’s featured for the Toon in all but one game, starting all of those in which he took part and never leaving the field substituted. Among 106 true defenders (per FBref.com) with 12+ games played , Targett ranks 31st in tackles leading to his team recovering the possession, has tackled 50% of the dribbles he’s been tried with, and ranks 26th with 4.5 Tkl+Int per 90 minutes on the pitch.
Newcastle is entering the most crucial offseason in club history. That’s facts and nothing sugarcoated. It’s definitely not a make-or-break summer because the project kickstarted with October’s takeover is just taking his first baby steps, but building a solid foundation can prove key going forward. The first building blocks arrived in January and it can’t be argued how massively great they’ve been for the Toon future aspirations.
That’s why Newcastle should make the absolute right decisions with their next moves. Whether the Magpies retain Targett or not they must have a clear vision of where they want to go next. There would make no sense to get to June without Targett and no Plan B already in place, and if there is no Plan B then that should mean Plan A went through—Plan A being retaining Targett, who has worked wonders in Tyneside.
At the end of the day, this delay feels more like a delayed formatily than anything else (Howe said that “[Newcastle is] being very respectful to Aston Villa for lending us Matt. We’ll make that decision at the end of the season.”) Target should become the second “signing” after Fabian Schär just announced a new two-year deal with Newcastle and also pending the expected re-signing of academy graduates Sean Longstaff and Paul Dummett (this last one I don’t quite understand, though it must be a statement made purely out of respect for the player).
If all of this comes to fruiting, then that’d be great and we’d be able to sign the tune of Welcome home, Matty T, glad to see you here!