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Matthew Ritchie
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Season Preview

Season Preview: Newcastle

by Andrew Gastelum
Updated On: August 9, 2019, 12:44 pm ET

There's a lot of changes at Newcastle heading into a daunting campaign, but the one thing that remains the same is the fans' frustrations with ownership. Rafa Benitez is gone now, as are the club's top two scorers, and the club has spent lots of money late in the window on unproven talent that it hopes can fill the void. New manager Steve Bruce certainly has his work cut out for him this season. 

In the next week, we are Rotoworld will be loading you up with club previews and lots of content to get you ready for the start of the season. I’m welcoming all suggestions and debates on Twitter (@gastelumEPL) and hopefully I can include your thoughts here in this column. Just one day before the start of the season!

 

Last Season: Finished 13th, 45 Points, 42 Goals For, 48 Goals Against; Fourth round FA Cup; Top Scorer: Ayoze Pérez (12)

 

Arrivals: Joelinton (Hoffenheim), Allan Saint-Maximin (Nice), Andy Carroll (West Ham), Emil Krafth (Amiens), Jetro Willems (on a loan from Eintracht Frankfurt)

 

Departures:  Ayoze Pérez (Leicester City), Joselu (Alaves), Mohamed Diame (released), Freddie Woodman (on loan to Swansea City)

 

 

2018-19 Summary: It’s still difficult to understand how Newcastle stayed up last season, especially after going winless in their first 10 games to start the season—they didn’t record their first league win until November. It’s even more incredible to think that Rafa Benitez kept his job and then led the Magpies to safety despite a serious lack of budget from the tight-fisted Mike Ashley. But a shrewd manager like Benitez knew that they could lose to Manchester City and Spurs at the beginning of the year if they finished strong against the likes of Fulham, Huddersfield Town and Burnley, which they did.

 

The Magpies’ season-changing win came against Manchester City in mid-January as the club never had to see the bottom three again. Ayoze Pérez proved to be the club’s savior in the second half with most of his team-leading 12 goals coming after New Years Day as the Spaniard formed a successful partnership with Salomon Rondon. But Martin Dubravka proved to be the shrewdest signing of the year for Newcastle. The goalkeeper cost only £4 million and ended up recording 11 clean sheets.

 

2019-20 Forecast: Now for the bad news: Most of the key figures that kept Newcastle are now gone. The club’s top two strikers and leading scorers from last season in Perez and Rondon, who combined for more than half of the club’s league goals with 23, left the club this summer in big-money moves. The club’s remaining top scorers from last season are all defenders with Fabian Schär leading the way on four goals. And most importantly, Rafa Benitez chose to leave for China after denying a new contract from the Newcastle hierarchy, claiming that the club’s lack of ambition and resources had left him with a sour taste and surely lots of stress trying to fight relegation every season.

So how does new manager Steve Bruce fit into the mix, and how does he overcome all of the Magpies’ shortcomings? Like last season, the club has a daunting schedule to start the year with Arsenal, Spurs, Liverpool, Manchester United and Chelsea due up before the October international break. All hope is not lost though: Newcastle spent a club-record £40 million for Hoffenheim forward Joelinton. The 22-year-old Brazilian scored seven goals in the Bundesliga last season, but a lot will be asked of him with only the oft-injured Andy Carroll behind him in the squad. But it looks certain that Newcastle will have another fight to beat relegation ahead of them this season, maybe even more than last season.

 

DEFENDERS:

Martin Dubravka is by far the most stable player on this team, but his £5.0 price-tag in FPL.com likely puts him out of reach considering keepers on stronger teams like Arsenal’s Bernd Leno and West Ham staple Lukasz Fabianski are the same price. Jamaal Lascelles and loan signing Jetro Willems look like the best options for a bargain buy at £4.5 but to start the season, a Newcastle defender doesn’t look like the best option considering that tough schedule. Meanwhile, Florian Lejeune and DeAndre Yedlin look to start the year on the training table due to injuries.

 

But my favorite pick out of all the Newcastle defenders in Matt Ritchie. I’m hoping he doesn’t get lost in Steve Bruce’s new setup, but Ritchie has the chance to be a real fantasy bargain considering he’s a winger who’s listed as a defender due to his appearances at left-back last season. The former Bournemouth star recorded two goals and tied a career high with eight assists last season. Ritchie could provide a serious differential for fantasy owners as a defender, especially in a draft setup where you don’t have to consider his £5.5 price in FPL.com.

 

MIDFIELDERS:

This is Newcastle’s make-or-break section, not just in their hopes for the league but also for Fantasy Premier League. The club’s remaining top point-getter is central midfielder Isaac Hayden, mostly just because he played more minutes than his fellow midfielders last season. Will players like Christian Atsu or Miguel Almirón hit their potential this season on the wing or will it be more of the same in terms of production on Tyneside? At least the club kept academy starlet Sean Longstaff from the likes of Manchester United, but it just looks like that’s where Newcastle is going to struggle the most in terms of controlling games.

 

The wildcard remains new arrival Allan Saint-Maximin, who signed a six-year contract in a £20 million move from Nice last week. The France U23 winger provides lots of pace to spice up the Newcastle attack evident in his six goals in Ligue 1 last season, but like Joelinton, the club may be asking a lot of a 22-year-old coming from a small club to the rigors of the Premier League. But as a mentioned earlier, Matt Ritchie looks like the club’s go-to midfielder in FPL, and the best part is that he’s listed as a defender. Otherwise, I would stay away from Newcastle midfielders in FPL.

 

FORWARDS:

This is the biggest hole that Newcastle has to fill. Ayoze Pérez and Salomon Rondon were the clear focal points of the team and nearly single-handedly kept the Magpies safe with an impressive goal-scoring run to end the season. Steve Bruce will have his work cut out for him in replacing 60 percent of the club’s goals; it’s even more frustrating that Ayoze Pérez was listed as a midfielder in FPL.com, looking like a surefire bargain pick, only to see him go to Leicester City where his role will be uncertain. The departures left Yoshinori Muto as the club’s only forward until this week, when Newcastle added the two forwards that they will rely on to provide the firepower.

 

Andy Carroll made his triumphant return to Newcastle on deadline day eight years after his then-British record £35 million move to Liverpool. But the forward didn’t score a single Premier League goal last season in another injury-plagued year at West Ham. The real enigma comes in Joelinton, who arrives in a club-record £40 million move from Hoffenheim. Reports compare him to Roberto Firmino, who came to the Premier League from the same club and country. The 22-year-old Joelinton is known more as a second striker than the lone forward like Rondon last season, so Steve Bruce will need to find someone to pair with him. There’s so many things to figure out with this team that you should probably wait to let these new assets settle in before committing to them in FPL.