Lasy May Newcastle United were condemned to relegation from the Premier League for the second time within nine years. A managerial heavyweight in Rafa Benitez was brought to save the town's giant sinking ship of a football club from the unsure shores of the EFL Championship, but the Champions League winning manager was short of time to save the Magpies from a season in England's second division. Tempted to stay at the club by a passionate fan base, Rafa guided Newcastle back up to football's promised land at the first time of asking, and as Champions no less. In that season the club's new management figures have attempted to change the losing philosophy of the club, and now back in the elite, Newcastle must go again in pursuit of Premier League survival. With a turbulent few seasons at Newcastle, we investigate if the club are ready to benefit players in the FPL, and if so, who are the steady horses to back for Fantasy success. All aboard.
If you're like us, wanting to know more about promoted clubs, and potential hidden gems for your Fantasy squad, we started by looking into Huddersfield's FPL potential. Next up Brighton went under the microscope, and now we'll be looking at the team, who above the other promoted clubs, have elevated expectations in the Premier League.
Newcastle United: Factfile
Stadium: St James's Park; 52,354 capacity
Current Manager: Rafa Benitez
Captain: Jamaal Lascelles (centre back)
Preferred Formation under Hughton: 4-2-3-1
Set Piece Takers:
- Penalties: Matt Ritchie, Dwight Gayle, Alexsander Mitrovic
- Direct Free Kicks: Matt Ritchie, Jonjo Shelvey, Dwight Gayle, Christian Atsu
- Corners and Indirect Free Kicks: Matt Ritchie, Jonjo Shelvey
Newcastle's 2016/17 Championship Statistics
- Position: 1st
- Win/Draw/Loss Record: 29 wins, 7 draws, 10 losses (94 points)
- Goals For/Against: 85 goals scored, 40 goals conceded (+45 overall goal difference, the best difference in the Championship)
Goals: 85 (49 home, 36 away)
Clean Sheets: 19 from 46 matches (8 home, 11 away)
2016/17 Top Scorers:
- Dwight Gayle (23 goals)
- Matt Ritchie (12 goals)
- Ayoze Perez (9 goals)
- Jonjo Shelvey (5 goals)
- Yoan Gouffran (5 goals)
- Daryl Murphy (5 goals)
- Christian Astu (5 goals)
- Alexsander Mitrovic (4 goals)
Team Discipline: 80 yellow cards, 3 red cards (Newcastle received 2 of their 3 red cards in a 2-1 away defeat to Nottingham Forest)
- Jack Colback (10 yellows, 0 red)
- Jonjo Shelvey (10 yellows, 1 red)
- Matt Ritchie (10 yellows, 0 red)
- Paul Dummett (8 yellows, 1 red)
- Isaac Hayden (7 yellows, 0 red)
- Jamaal Lascelles (6 yellow, 0 red)
- Mo Diame (4 yellows, 0 red)
- Alexsander Mitrovic (3 yellows, 0 red)
- Ciaran Clark (3 yellows, 0 red)
- DeAndre Yedlin (3 yellows, 0 red)
- Dwight Gayle (3 yellows, 0 red)
- Yoan Gouffran (3 yellows, 0 red)
Newcastle's 2017/18 Premier League Signings
Christian Atsu [LM/RM]: Chelsea (£6,200,000)
Florian Lejeune [CB]: Eibar (£8,700,000)
Jacob Murphy [LM/RM]: Norwich City (£12,000,000)
Javier Manquillo [LB/RB]: Athletico Madrid (£4,500,000)
Mikel Merino [CM/CDM]: Borussia Dortmund (Loan)
Rafa Benetiz isn't done in the transfer window, not by a long shot. It's been a frustrating summer of transfer activity at Newcastle, and talk of the town is that Rafa isn't impressed with how long it is taking to get identified targets through the door, if at all. In particular Rafa was left reeling after Tammy Abraham opted for Swansea ahead of Newcastle, a move that has impacted Newcastle in the summer window. Ahead of everything else Rafa is searching for a new centre forward to help take the weight of goals off Gayle's shoulders. As a die-hard Newcastle fan, myself and thousands of the Toon are dejected that it looks like Alexsander Mitrovic, a lad who loves the club unconditionally and shows this in his performances, will be moved on by Benitez. Of course the disciplinary side of his game is atrocious, an ugly part of Mitro's game that was last seen during a 1-0 away victory at Wolves. Just minutes before scoring the only goal of the game, Mitro lunged as he does, and should have been sent off. He saw red at home to Arsenal and Spurs at home last season, the first and last home ties, in Newcastle's eventual relegation. Rafa just doesn't appear to have faith in the Serbian, and much of the city agree with Rafa's decision.
In regards to striking options, there is very little on the gossip front, though rumours of a move for Leicester's unwanted Islam Slimani are gaining traction.
Every word is treated like gospel. Every action is over analysed. The goldfish bowl of a football club here's every rumour, and tends to get easily dejected when the club's ambitions and their own don't match up. That's why there's a sense of unrest at times when transfer talk vanishes. Rafa even spoke publically at a fan meeting to declare that he hadn't landed his major transfer targets but he is now happy, even citing that he had big money offers to manager in China, but rejected the advances.
Elsewhere in Rafa's transfers priority are a new number one Goalkeeper. Talk of Napoli's Pepe Reina has simmered, Darren Randoplh formerly of West Ham, opted for Middlesbrough, and Willy Cabellero joined Chelsea as an understudy to Thibaut Courtois. Despite have the veteran stopper Rob Elliot, Tim Krul, and Karl Darlow, the latter who is expected to leave the club, despite being first choice last season, Rafa wants to shake up the Goalkeeping department. Adrian, also of West Ham, is the latest link, with Newcastle potentially offering Karl Darlow as a makeshift in a deal.
One transfer just completed, just before this article sees the light of day, is the arrival of Borussia Dortmund midfielder Mikel Merino. The 21 year old central midfielder has failed to adapt to life in Germany, so has opted to join Rafa and his team at Newcastle. Merino is a hard-tackling CM who has all the qualities to be at the heart of Newcastle's engine room next season. He joined Dortmund from Osasuna just one year ago.
Newcastle are also looking to provide competition at left-back, with Kieran Gibbs of Arsenal eternally linked with the Magpies.
Newcastle's Pre-Season Fixtures and Results
14/07/2017: Heart of Midlothian 1-2 Newcastle (Gayle, 2)
22/07/2017: Preston North End 1-1 Newcastle (Mitrovic)
26/07/2017: Bradford City 0-4 Newcastle (Gayle, J. Murphy 2, Mitrovic)
29/07/2017: FSV Mainz 05 (Opel Arena, Mainz, Germany)
02/08/2017: Wolfsburg (AOK Stadion, Wolfsburg, Germany)
06/08/2017: Hellas Verona (St James' Park)
How do Newcastle play their football?
Unlike previous manager's of the club, who have conveyed their tactical ineptitude onto the pitch for all Magpie eyes to see, Rafa Benitez is a master of tactical prowess on the football pitch, and that statement was shown in full effect last season as Newcastle were eventually crowned Championship winners on the final day of the season.
Newcastle were a tale of two sides at time last season. Opting for a 4-2-3-1 formation for much of the season, the club struggled, losing their opening two games of the season to Fulham and Huddersfield, but little were they to know that they'd be playing one of the three promoted sides. Newcastle ultimately lost five games at St James's Park, with only the fourth best home record in the division. The Toon tallied eight clean sheets at home, but in attack is where they thrived, with 49 goals in front of their own supporters, which was the second best figure behind Norwich.
Away from home is where Newcastle's title bid is to thank. Winning 14 of their 23 matches away from home, and keeping 11 clean sheets on their travels (the best record in the league by far), Rafa's disciplined and dogged style of play made Newcastle incredibly hard to beat on the road. We were testament to that as The Hype Train attended perhaps Newcastle's worst game of the season - a 0-0 draw at Reading's Madjeski's Stadium - which was ultimately a performance sprinkled with defensive capability. FPL players should expect Newcastle to carry this on away from home next season, so it should be a warning. If you see that Newcastle are coming to town, we'd really think twice before putting the captain's armband onto a midfielder of forward that has to play against a side that is comfortable at locking the door and throwing away the key on their travels.
The squad itself had a massive injection of new talent, but a lot of it was rotated into the squad whilst Rafa shuffled the deck every game to maximise his defensive, or offensive tactics. In goal, Karl Darlow was the mainstay for much of the season, though Rob Elliot took over keeping duties when returning from injury near the end of the season.
In defence only Paul Dummett and Jamaal Lascelles were mainstays. On occasion Ciaran Clark was rotated with Chancel Mbemba, whilst DeAndre Yedlin, even when fit, was rotated with the now departed Vernon Anita and Jesus Gamez.
In midfield Jonjo Shelvey was a lock in central midfield, with his midfield partner rotating between Jack Colback and Isaac Hayden. On the wing Matt Ritchie was the consistent figure on the right, and really endeared himself to Newcastle's fans with a high work-rate, but on the left of midfield, though Yoan Gouffran held the reigns for much of the season, was rotated with Christian Atsu.
In attack, Mo Diame and Ayoze Perez rotated in the number 10 position all season long, whilst Dwight Gayle was the figurehead of the attack with 23 goals from 26 starts. Injury plagued Gayle, giving Alexsander Mitrovic and Daryl Murphy an opportunity to shine, but neither men installed confidence within Rafa Benitez to give either man a permanent starting birth in the squad.
Next season expect more of the same. If Rafa identifies a quality in a benched player the week before, that he believes can exploit his next opposition, he will not hesitate to rotate. Rafa's in it to win, and he couldn't care less about FPL players and their Fantasy returns, which means the only safe bets from Newcastle's team are the one's who have proven themselves as indispensable in a division where at times you're playing twice a week.
Newcastle's Premier League Fixture List
Of the three promoted clubs, all of which have quite favourable fixtures, Newcastle perhaps have the most enticing fixtures, which bodes well considering you'd expect them to be a level higher than Brighton and Huddersfield in competing in the Premier League. Rafa Benitez's side start the season at home to Spurs, which is a repeat of their last fixture in the Premier League, that ended in a 5-1 victory over the London based club. On that day Alexsander Mitrovic was sent off early in the first half, and it was a result that had a huge sway in Rafa pledging himself to the club for a season in the Championship. It's a dark horse fixture that as a Newcastle fan is winnable, but we are well aware of the dangers posed by Harry Kane, Dele Alli, and most importantly at St James's Park, Christian Eriksen. The Dane has a habit of scoring or assisting whilst in the Tyneside region.
Newcastle then face five mouthwatering ties against Huddersfield, West Ham, Swansea, Stoke, and Brighton, before facing a Liverpool side that Newcastle beat at home the last time they were in the Premier League. The Toon then wrap up their opening ten fixtures against Southampton, Crystal Palace, and Burnley.
We'd be hard pressed to find an FPL player who isn't considering one of Newcastle's options. Their fixture list means the club have to come screaming out of the gate, otherwise they'll find themselves in another relegation battle by the time they face the usual top six subjects in Chelsea, Man United, Man City, and Arsenal.
Assessing Newcastle's FPL Options
In our previous assessments of FPL options, it's not cut and dry who might be a good selection. Huddersfield are the great unknowns, but offer some attractive options with a good run. Brighton, likewise, offer many potential options, but there is a grey area where their points will be achieved. Newcastle however, it's pretty cut and dry. With Rafa Benitez having multiple options, and favouring rotation across the pitch, the only reliable FPL options as of right now, whilst the dust hasn't settled, is with proven players that have their names etched on the team sheet. A new Goalkeeper might pose a 4th option, but as of right now there are three options to consider from Newcastle's selection, and none will break the bank.
DEFENDER: Jamaal Lascelles (£4.5m)
- Appearances: 43 (41 starts, 2 as a substitute; 3675 minutes played)
- Goals: 3 (2 home, 1 away)
- Assists: 1 (0 home, 1 away)
- Discipline: 6 yellows, 0 red
Position: Centre back [CB]
Will he play?: Jamaal is the captain, he's playing, but has a slight knock ahead of GW1
Newcastle's captain and an ever present on the team sheet last season, Jamaal Lascelles has all the qualities that could translate into FPL points. Not only will he play, but he's got an eye for goal as well. At the tail end of the 2015/16 season, which saw Newcastle relegated, Lascelles scored 2 goals from the 10 teams he featured as a starter for Newcastle. Last season he also notched a further 3 goals. With the addition of Florian Lejeune as a potential centre back partner, Newcastle should have a lot of options from set pieces, which could also potentially sway Matt Ritchie suitors.
Right now there is a slight concern as to his fitness for the opening day of the season against Spurs, having undergone minor surgery at the end of the season, but that shouldn't stop Jamaal from starting the season, or coming into the fold shortly after the first or second Gameweek's.
With rotation always in the works Lascelles appears to be one of the only safe bets in Newcastle's defence this season, but with just 2.4% ownership as of writing, this message hasn't been headed by players yet, with Yedlin ahead of him in the queue when it comes to selection.
MIDFIELDER: Matt Ritchie (£6.0m)
- Appearances: 42 (40 starts, 2 as a substitute; 3547 minutes played)
- Goals: 12 (10 home, 2 away)
- Assists: 7 (4 home, 3 away)
- Discipline: 10 yellows, 0 red
Position: Right midfield [RM]
Will he play?: Ritchie is a definite starter
Unsurprisingly so, one Newcastle's big money signings last summer makes the cut. Before the Championship season started Newcastle fans couldn't get enough of the idea of Ritchie and Gayle tearing through the Championship together, and yes it happened. Ritchie was a starter all season for Newcastle, and was the first name on the team-sheet 40 times last season. Now it appears that the same is being asked of Ritchie and Gayle this season, to set the FPL alight, and given the burden both are happy to carry, it's an obvious starting point that makes Ritchie the man to go to if you're after an attacking Newcastle talent.
Set-piece duty will be a big draw in Matt Ritchie's FPL season. He was Newcastle's penalty kick taker last season, shared direct free kick responsibility with Shelvey and Gayle, and also rotated corner kick duty with Shelvey. With Lascelles, Gayle, and Lejeune, all in the box, Ritchie isn't going to be short of options, and potential assists this season.
Last time out in the FPL for Bournemouth in their debut season, Ritchie scored 4 times and assisted 8 goals, scoring 119 points in a season which saw him featured 33 times as a starter, with 4 further appearances coming from off the bench. With added experience and added set-piece responsibility, Ritchie has the potential to further his tally this season.
Ritchie for us on a personal level, is near the top of consideration for midfielders overall. He's cheaper than Tadic and Redmond, with the FPL community arguing over which option is better, and has the fixtures like Southampton to put him out in front of most other budget midfield options. Newcastle are a bigger club, and will pose more of a threat, than a lot of clubs in the league, especially Brighton and Huddersfield. Rafa will go out of his way to ensure that it is Ritchie and Gayle that are given the tools to unlock defences.
FORWARD: Dwight Gayle (£6.5m)
- Appearances: 32 (26 starts, 6 as a substitute; 2147 minutes played)
- Goals: 23 (15 home, 8 away)
- Assists: 2 (1 home, 1 away)
- Discipline: 3 yellows, 0 red
Position: Centre forward [CF]
Will he play?: Gayle's playing as Newcastle have yet to find competition in the transfer market
Lastly, rounding off our trio of Newcastle selections, is a forward that was never given his big break in the Premier League during his spell with Crystal Palace. Dwight Gayle has scored 12 Premier League goals for Palace, spread over 3 seasons, but has been a bit-part player throughout and finally sought sunnier shores at Newcastle, with the aim of being their top striker heading into a new Premier League season.
Statistics obviously work in Gayle's favour. He was the joint second top goal scorer in the Championship last season on 23 goals, the same number as Bristol City's Tammy Abraham and Brighton's Glen Murray, but Gayle made it happen from just 26 starts and 6 sub appearances. With just 2 assists to his name, Gayle is more often than not the supply route that is in the box, which means you're going to see him in the box at every available opportunity. Last season Gayle was a good poacher, scoring most of his goals in the box, but showed his classy touch with one free kick goal as well.
The only niggling concern is Gayle's injury record, which is a reason why Rafa Benitez has made signing a new forward a priority in the transfer window. Rafa doesn't feel he can trust in Mitrovic to supply many of the goals that Gayle scored for fun, so it is understandable that Gayle has competition thrown his way this season. Gayle's full potential was never realised in the Championship having missed 14 games. If that were the case we could be talking of a 30-35 goal forward, and if that was the case, Gayle would be in more than just 8.9% of current FPL teams heading into Gameweek 1.
With Spurs arriving for Gameweek 1, Gayle's doubters will no doubt be in force, but that's the chance you are taking with a Murray, a Mounie, or a Gayle. Of the three, Gayle is probably the man to trust most, and with Rafa in charge, Newcastle fans are already believes in Gayle's ability to do it all over again, on the stage he always wanted to conquer.
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