Let’s be honest here – the current squad is well below Premier League standard and shouldn’t have been allowed to drift to such disastrous levels. The defending for most of the season was bordering on comical – with Mike Williamson and captain Fabricio Coloccini in particular struggling – and the attack was unfairly heaped upon the young shoulders of Ayoze Perez, who coped admirably in testing circumstances.
Both ends of the pitch are in serious need of strengthening but personally, I think the need for defenders should be the priority. The trio of Willamson, Coloccini and Steven Taylor were badly exposed this season and need to be moved on. You could argue that Taylor is worth keeping; however his injury record, coupled with the occasional moments of madness, does at times make him a liability.
With this in mind, we’ve picked out three defenders the Magpies could be targeting in the coming months:
Lewis Dunk, Brighton & Hove Albion
The 23-year-old centre-half was reportedly on the radar of McClaren’s when he was charge of former club Derby. However, there are reports dating back as far as 2012 crediting the Magpies’ interest in the former England Under-21 player, making this deal entirely plausible.
His age certainly fits the profile of Newcastle’s strict transfer policy and maybe highlights a shift towards more British-based players in the future. Also, seven goals from defence last season would bring the Toon some much needed aerial threat from set-pieces. Valued at around £5million, Dunk could prove to be a steal, but his lack of top flight experience is a cause for concern.
Joel Matip, Schalke
With just one year left on his current deal, the Newcastle hierarchy know they will be in a strong bargaining position when it comes to agreeing a transfer fee. Again, his current age of 23 makes him a realistic target but his value is a potential sticking point. Reports suggest the German side are holding out for £10million, but Newcastle do not want to part with more than £7million.
All too often we have seen the club haggle over transfer fees (Bafetimbi Gomis, Alexandre Lacazette and Wilfried Bony just to name a few) before seeing the deal collapse. With Coloccini the only player during the Mike Ashley era to arrive at St James’ Park for a fee over £10million, this deal very much has déjà-vu written all over it.
However, the Cameroon international was rumoured to have already been offered to the Magpies earlier this year, suggesting a compromise could be made.
James Chester, Hull City
He may have been relegated with the Tigers last season, but the 26-year-old proved he is more than good enough for the Premier League. Chester has also played a key role in Wales’ remarkable form in Euro 2016 qualification, with his country on the brink of securing a place at next year’s finals in France.
Equally adept at playing full-back, the former Manchester United youth player could provide cover for Daryl Janmaat as well as competing for a centre-half spot. His ability to play the ball out from the back could appeal to Toon boss McClaren, who has already promised an exciting and attacking brand of football.
Reports vary about a possible price, with some suggesting it could be as high as £10million for a player who, like Matip, is entering the final year of their contract. For me, it would be a solid signing but with Leicester, Aston Villa and West Brom also rumoured to be keen, we could once again see Newcastle punished for their indecisiveness in the transfer market.