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Season Preview: Will internal turmoil bring Newcastle down?

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Newcastle at a glance:

Premier League (and old First Division) titles: 2 (last: 1959/60)

FA Cups: 5 (last: 1954/55)

League Cups: 0 (best finish: runners-up 1974/75)

FA Community Shield: 1 (1909/10, runners-up 5 times)

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Newcastle’s biggest enemy is itself, and this year might just be the year it brings them down for real.

Soccer’s Jerry Jones has taken flak for years as the Magpies slowly consume themselves from the inside out, yet Mike Ashley continues to trudge on stuck in his ways. No Premier League team would produce a bigger inferno upon relegation than Newcastle. Championship title winners just two years ago, Rafa Benitez has milked everything he can out of a paper-thin squad for the last two years, but if relegation becomes unavoidable, Newcastle’s biggest asset would most certainly walk, and the doom and gloom would spread like wildfire.

It’s somewhat surprpsing that relegation talk swirls after a 10th placed finish last year, but that’s the Benitez effect. The team continues to punch above its weight on paper, all thanks to their all-star manager. Yet the summer transfer window has been another one of frustration, and thus the fan unrest continues.

Can Benitez push the Magpies away from the bottom-tier maelstrom or will Newcastle be pulled into the unescapable cyclone?


Newcastle will finish away from the drop because…everything good Newcastle has stumbled upon the last two years has been attributable to Benitez. With the Spaniard around, most anything is possible. The defense is thin but talented, and the attack has promise. If Newcastle can avoid the injury bug, they can go places.

Newcastle will be relegated because…the squad is razor thin. Florian Lejeune is already out with an ACL tear, and if an injury leaves either Jamaal Lascelles or Martin Dubravka on the sidelines as well, the back line becomes swiss cheese. At the other end there’s a little more depth, but much of the creativity falls to Ayoze Perez, and an injury to the wrong place in that department could bring the team down as well. Mike Ashley hasn’t done enough this summer to instill confidence in fans.

Best possible XI:

———————Dubravka———————

——Yedlin—Lascelles—Schar——Dummett——

——Ritchie—Shelvey—Diame——Atsu——

—————Perez——————

—————Gayle——————

Transfers In: Yoshinori Muto ($12.4 million, FSV Mainz), Fabian Schar ($4.6 million, Deportivo La Coruna), Martin Dubravka ($4.6 million, Sparta Prague), Ki Sung-Yueng (Free, Swansea City), Kenedy (Loan, Chelsea).

Transfers Out: Aleksandar Mitrovic ($23.3 million, Fulham), Mikel Merino ($12 million, Real Sociedad), Chance Mbemba ($9.2 million, Porto), Matz Sels ($4.6 million, RC Strasbourg), Massadio Haidara (Free, Lens), Stuart Findlay (Free, Kilmarnock), Jack Colback (Loan, Nottingham Forest).

Ranking their offseason: C

Newcastle received nearly $25 million for Aleksandar Mitrovic from Fulham – a total that was basically a foregone conclusion for weeks, pending Newcastle securing his replacement in Muto – and promptly sat on it. While useful players have been brought in with Schar replacing the injured Lejeune and Dubravka likely to start in net, the team wasn’t necessarily improved in the transfer market, and the squad still has plenty of holes. If they go down, this transfer window will be largely viewed as a big reason why.

Star player: While Ayoze Perez is the lifeblood of the Newcastle attack, nobody is more important to this squad than Jamaal Lascelles. Newcastle resisted heavy interest for his services this summer, and they will be far better off for it. The 24-year-old has developed into one of the best central defenders in the Premier League, and was heavily considered for a spot in the England World Cup squad this summer. If anything happens to him, this squad will come crumbling to pieces, and he would likely leave if they are relegated.

Coach’s Corner: While Lascelles is the most valuable player, nobody is more important to this team than Rafa Benitez. Mike Ashley’s greatest accomplishment was convincing the Spaniard to commit to the club through the one season in the Championship, and it has paid off since. Still, Ashely does little to back his manager, and Benitez has not held back. After a 4-0 defeat to Braga in preseason, Benitez said, “The fans have to be concerned, we are concerned. I’m really worried.” Should the club misstep at all this season, Benitez would surely depart for a bigger club. He’s certainly earned the right.

PST Predicts: While much of this preview has been quite doom and gloom, Newcastle has enough prized possessions to stay up this season. The most concerning part of this offseason has to be the newly promoted clubs spending vast quantities of money to improve, but there should be enough teams worse than Newcastle to prevent the Magpies from suffering heartbreak. Just enough. They should finish around 15th in the table after quite the scare.

Newcastle announces signing of Japanese striker Muto

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Rafa Benitez finally has the attacking threat he’s been begging for all summer.

Newcastle United announced Friday they have completed the transfer of Japanese international Yoshinori Muto.

The 26-year-old arrives from Bundesliga side FC Mainz where he joined in the summer of 2015 from J-League team FC Tokyo. Muto made 72 appearances for the German club across all competitions, scoring 23 goals and assisting 11 others.

Muto has 25 international caps to his name for Japan, riding the bench for most of the 2018 World Cup aside from a start in the final group stage match against Poland where he played 82 minutes without scoring or assisting a goal as Japan fell 1-0 to Poland.

According to the Newcastle Chronicle, the Magpies have forked out $12.5 million for the transfer, which is subject to receipt of a work permit.

To this point in the summer window, Newcastle had secured the services of center-back Fabian Schar, midfielder Ki Seung-young, and goalkeeper Martin Dubravkia. Still, Benitez was desperate to add to the attacking ranks, with little support for star Ayoze Perez. The acquisition of Muto likely eases the fears of allowing want-away striker Aleksandar Mitrovic to leave, with Fulham in pursuit.

Newcastle gets 2nd Kenedy loan, sells Merino to La Liga

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Kenedy is returning to Newcastle United.

The Chelsea man will take a second loan season with Rafa Benitez after making a strong impression on Tyneside in the second half of the 2017-18 season.

The Magpies will have the option to buy Kenedy.

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The Brazilian left-sided man can play virtually any field position besides center back, and scored two goals with two assists for the Magpies last season.

“I am so happy with this interest from Rafa Benítez, that he came back for me,” said Kenedy. “I want to keep it going, the work that I did here before, for the new season.

Meanwhile, Mikel Merino‘s whirlwind time at St. James’ Park is done after just one season.

Newcastle is selling the Spaniard to Real Sociedad. Merino burst onto the scene on loan from Borussia Dortmund, and the Magpies quickly exercised an option to buy the silky midfielder.

But Merino dropped down the depth chart, making just two starts after New Year’s Day.

Transfer rumor roundup: Schurrle to Newcastle, Spurs

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A new name has emerged on the loan market, as Borussia Dortmund forward Andre Schurrle is reportedly being made available for the second half of the Premier League season.

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Newcastle United reportedly leads the pack for the former Chelsea scorer, who is struggling to get time at BVB thanks to a glut of fantastic wingers including Christian Pulisic.

Magpies boss Rafa Benitez has a good relationship with the Westfalenstadion set, having taken Mikel Merino off their hands in August. Newcastle currently uses Christian Atsu on the left wing and Matt Ritchie on the right, but Schurrle can play center forward and Benitez may prefer to use the 27-year-old in the middle of his trident.

But they’ll face competition, and HITC says BVB is willing to pay half of his wages on an 18-month deal to keep him reasonable for some clubs. This could be a boon for Spurs.

Newcastle and Stoke City have also been linked with Galatasaray midfielder Papa “Badou” Ndiaye, with the Magpies said to have bid just a bit higher than the Potters but still under Gala’s buyout clause.

And here’s a wild one, according to ESPN: Chelsea’s rumored pursuit of current Premier League scorers now includes Marko Arnautovic. The audacious Austrian attacker cost West Ham around $35 million when his head was turned from Stoke City in the summer.

He didn’t perform well but Slaven Bilic, but David Moyes has been able to get some fine performances from the powerful Arnautovic. Chelsea has previously been linked with West Ham teammate Andy Carroll, Burnley’s Ashley Barnes, and Stoke’s Peter Crouch as it attempts to find a center forward to ease the burden placed on Alvaro Morata in his first Premier League season.

Newcastle United 0-0 Brighton and Hove Albion: Nothing up North

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  • Ten shots each in dull encounter
  • Brighton takes four of six from NUFC

There wasn’t a lot to like from Brighton and Hove Albion’s visit to Newcastle United, embedded in a 0-0 Saturday score line at St. James’ Park that only needs the numbers to tell the story.

Newcastle sits a point above the drop zone, while Brighton sits four points clear of 18th.

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Newcastle United had most of the ball but struggled to connect with crosses or scoop up loose chances in the 18.

At the other end, Shane Duffy nodded a cross wide of the goal.

Mikel Merino‘s long through ball to Dwight Gayle yielded a chance, but Mat Ryan collected his rebound before Joselu could nab the loose ball.

Glenn Murray was offside when he missed a back post sitter in the 27th minute.

Joselu had a 40th minute low rip off more Merino playmaking but it dragged wide and Ryan probably had the angle covered.

Duffy headed over goal for a second time in the match off a 42nd minute corner.

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Ryan made an outstanding reaction save on a deflected Isaac Hayden effort, and Jamaal Lascelles headed the ensuing corner wide of the near post.

Karl Darlow got low to collect a Pascal Gross free kick in the 54th.

Gayle forced a fantastic save out of Ryan off a Christian Atsu cross five minutes later, and Darlow nearly matched that stop with his save on a Lewis Dunk header.