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Notebook: Newcastle fans happy but big spend brings no survival guarantee

Sky Sports News reporter Keith Downie delves into the recruitment strategy behind Newcastle United's January transfer window spend; Bruno Guimaraes, Chris Wood, Kieran Trippier, Dan Burn and Matt Targett all arrived at the club last month

Newcastle 'have strengthened the squad and given the team a better chance of survival', says Sky Sports News reporter Keith Downie
Image: Newcastle 'have strengthened the squad and given the team a better chance of survival', says Sky Sports News reporter Keith Downie

How content should Newcastle fans feel with their transfer activity and can they expect a more organised approach to the summer window?

The Magpies emerged as the January window's biggest spenders with the signings of Bruno Guimaraes, Chris Wood, Kieran Trippier and Dan Burn, while Matt Targett also arrived on loan.

With the side embroiled in a relegation battle, the club's new owners will be hoping their new signings can supply an instant boost to their quest for survival.

But could the failure to bring in another striker come back to haunt the side who have averaged less than a goal per game all season?

Chris Wood Newcastle signing
Image: Newcastle triggered the release clause to bring striker Chris Wood to the club from Burnley, following the injury to their leading goalscorer Callum Wilson

'Lack of new forward leaves gaping hole'

Sky Sports News reporter Keith Downie reflecting on Newcastle's transfer dealings.

Newcastle's new owners spent more money in the last month than Mike Ashley did in the previous 14 January transfer windows - yet Premier League survival this season is far from guaranteed.

Despite five new signings arriving at the combined cost of £95m (including add-ons), the failure to bring in a forward on Deadline Day leaves a gaping hole.

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Newcastle's makeshift transfer team of owners Amanda Staveley and husband Mehrdad Ghodoussi, chief scout Steve Nickson and manager Eddie Howe didn't get much sleep last month. They worked around the clock to secure the targets they felt were required to secure Premier League safety.

Make no mistake, this was not the work of a club with one eye preparing for a season in the Championship. They are desperate to stay up this term as they know the fun that will be poked in their direction if they fail to do so.

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Here are all the numbers from the January 2022 window - another record-breaking and busy month for a lot of Premier League clubs

'Man Utd dug heels in on Jesse Lingard attention'

Much of their best work was done in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, where a meeting with PIF Chair Yasir Al-Rumayyan gave the green light for the arrival of their marquee signing - £40m Brazil international midfielder Guimaraes. Initially the timing of the trip to Saudi Arabia looked like a distraction from their transfer dealings, but by the end it brought everyone closer together according to Howe.

When fans woke up the morning of Deadline Day they were excited at the potential arrival of Hugo Ekitike - after news broke that Newcastle had agreed a fee of £25m with Stade Reims for the young striker. When Ekitike signalled his preference was to stay in France, the Newcastle hierarchy turned their attentions back to Jesse Lingard; they had been locked in talks with the player and Manchester United for much of the month.

Image: Jesse Lingard was told by Manchester United he would not be allowed to leave Old Trafford on Deadline Day

At that point I conducted a poll on Twitter to ask who the Toon fans would prefer. Of the 25,000 votes cast, 77 per cent said Lingard. But Manchester United dug their heels in, much to Newcastle's despair. It has left them short in attack, and a single player short of the perfect transfer window. With Callum Wilson sidelined until April, it leaves the goalscoring burden to Chris Wood and Allan Saint-Maximin.

'Team morale key to Howe's plans'

They could have acted in desperation and attempted to bring in Duvan Zapata from Atalanta or Bamba Dieng from Marseille, but Howe had to weigh up whether it was worth omitting another current player from his 25-man Premier League squad to make way.

He already had to drop three players after the likes of Ciaran Clark and Jamal Lewis turned down the opportunity to go out on loan. And, in the end, he felt it wasn't worth the risk in team morale for a player that he didn't really fancy anyway.

Eddie Howe looks on during the 1-0 defeat to Cambridge United
Image: Eddie Howe said Newcastle entered this transfer window 'with a plan to add strong competition in specific areas'

The irony of the club's big-spending January was that it was conducted from a makeshift hut built on the side of the club's run-down training ground. It is a place that Staveley herself has previously labelled "awful". Nickson and Ghodoussi were back and forward from the hut to the main building all day on Monday as they attempted one last signing.

Countless Zoom calls also took place as Staveley, Ghodoussi, Nickson and Howe worked on the move. It was all very impromptu, but the team had to make do with the resources they had.

'Defence undoubtedly strengthened'

Criticism would definitely have followed if the last-minute signings of Guimaraes, Burn and Targett had not arrived, but they got close to the perfect number in the end by whatever the means. It's also worth pointing out they were working in a window that is notoriously difficult and expensive.

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The Soccer Saturday team discuss whether the addition of Dan Burn to the Newcastle squad will be enough to help them escape relegation

The fact they have been labelled the richest club in the world only added to that, with selling clubs and agents trying to extort as much as they could from the Saudi-backed regime. Perhaps the appointment of a director of football before the window opened would have made this process significantly smoother. Expect that role to be filled soon ahead of the summer window.

Matt Targett celebrates his opener
Image: Matt Targett joined on loan from Aston Villa until the end of the season

The signing of Trippier for £12m was a steal, but while they overpaid for Chris Wood (£25m), it was a move of necessity. The £40m capture of Guimaraes looks to be the pick of the bunch, and if he meets the additional clauses in the deal, he will become the club's record transfer. The defence badly needed strengthening, and they have undoubtedly done that with the signings of Trippier, Burn and Targett.

It wasn't the perfect outcome for the owners, and they had to move down their list frequently. They tried and failed to land big-money deals for Sven Botman, Diego Carlos and Lingard among others, but they have strengthened the squad and given the team a better chance of survival.

Newcastle's line-up before January
Image: Newcastle United's line-up before securing January signings

'Supporters are happy and that's the main thing'

The Saudi owners have also answered any lingering questions about whether they were willing to put their money where their mouths are. A £95m spend for a club which could quite easily be playing in the Championship next season is an impressive outlay.

The supporters are happy, though, and that's the main thing. For many years they have been frustrated, angry and more recently disassociated with their club. They are aware it was a bit of a muddle, but they know the new owners tried. And for years now the one thing they have wanted, above all, is to support a team that tries.

Whether all that effort of the last month pays off will only be known in May. And if it is, expect a much more organised attack on the summer window.

Newcastle's line-up after January
Image: Newcastle United's line-up after securing January signings

Hear the best Premier League reaction and expert analysis with the Essential Football and Gary Neville podcasts, keep up-to-date with our dedicated Transfer Centre, follow the Sky Sports social accounts on Twitter, Instagram and YouTube, and find out how to get Sky Sports.

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