A busy summer for the Magpies will be coming to a close shortly, and the mix of off- and on-the-pitch changes have produced both excitement and frustration.
The latter woes were punctuated by the sale of Allan Saint-Maximin, a move that pushed me into a brief depression. Like many fans who endured the Mike Ashley era, I try to rationalize the decision with the inevitability that Newcastle is a team destined for a few years of growing pain, with the next offseason—if not sooner—sure to include tough decisions for the Dan Burns and Fabian Schars in our squad.
For those that have paid attention, I’ve tried to keep an eye on the transfer trends this summer in a better effort to understand how manager Eddie Howe intends to try and navigate the minute distribution of Newcastle’s players as they enter a season that will come with the return of NUFC to the Champions League this fall.
The newest addition to the roster was “unofficially officially” confirmed here on Friday with the signing of Southampton right wing-back Tino Livramento.
The player was so determined to find first-team minutes that he chose to leave a perennial Champions League participant for a relegation-fodder squad. While that indicates Reese James’s spot on the Chelsea right-hand side must now be cemented for the foreseeable future, it does beg the question: Where does Livramento fit into a side with de-facto captain Kieran Trippier playing some of the best football of his career?
I’ve seen a lot of chatter indicating that Livramento could play on the left-hand side, which appears to be complete nonsense. If that was the case, he would have moved into that role at Chelsea and saved them from the disastrous £63m purchase of Marc Cucurella from Brighton.
My only guess is that this is a long-term signing requested by Howe and that the coach will be enacted to slowly introduce Livramento into the first team behind Trippier as the youngster recovers from a knee injury that sidelined him for over a full calendar year. It’s a strange situation for a position where the other backup is Emil Krafth, who himself dreams of a return to Newcastle following his own 365+ day injury rehab.
Saturday’s Sela Cup lineup included Matt Targett on the left side manning the left-back role, his recurrent placement confirming my earlier opinion that this summer is Targett’s audition as a starting LB in the Premier League.
Whether that call was geared toward a future at Newcastle or just as a showcase to other squads for a move this summer, is anyone’s guess. Personally, I’m not sure if it was the heel injury he suffered last season, but there is clearly some sort of a pace issue on our defensive left side which is cause for concern as we will already be relying on some new faces on the left side of the forward line.
Should Targett fail to impress before next weekend, we may see the return of Dan Burn to the left side, which would leave perennial terminator Sven Botman and 31-year-old oft-grounded Fabian Schar as the two starting center-backs.
That would give more credence to those July rumors of a Joachim Andersen move from Crystal Palace, which always seems more likely when you hear “multiple clubs named” as potential destinations when the player’s agent is shaking the pot looking for more money.
The 27-year-old Denmark international has bounced across Europe over the years, with his time at Palace punctuated by his most appearances at one single club (66) over that time span.
On paper, the cost looks like it would be similar to that of France international and new Chelsea center-back Axel Disasi, who cost the Blues a fee of around €45m paid to Monaco of the French Ligue 1. The Dane is two years older than Disasi and “Danish International” doesn’t have the same cache as “French International,” yet Andersen is EPL-proven like Harvey Barnes and already cemented as a starter even getting to take the field Saturday for the Eagles starting in a friendly game against Olympique Lyon.
As Palace’s second highest-paid player at £4.1m/year and £79.5/week and still under contract through 2026, the Londoners may be in no rush to sell the 6’4” anchor of their defense.
Crystal Palace have spent the summer devising blueprints on how to repel offers for Eberechi Eze and Michael Olise, who blossomed at the tail end of last season, and they have already confirmed the transfer of a former player linked to Newcastle in Brazilian prodigy Matheus Franca for around £26m from Flamengo. All that tells me is that an imminent cleaning of the wage bill could be on the horizon.
Will that involve an Andersen relocation? And should that come to pass, how comfortable are you with another full season of the Burn & Targett pairing on the left?
If Newcastle have one move left to be completed, as Howe said ahead of the Sela Cup on Friday, will it bolster the center-back ranks... or will it bring a fresh face to the left side of the defensive line?