Tuesday, 4 July 2017

NUFC 17/18 Preview: The Boys Are Back In Toon

Well they weren't gone for too long. After just one season away from the Premier League, Newcastle United are back in the big time, after finishing champions of the Championship in dramatic fashion, taking over Brighton on the last day of the season. 

Newcastle won their final home match against Barnsley comfortably (3-0), whilst Brighton suffered a late stunner from Aston Villa's Jack Grealish in the 89th minute levelling the game at 1-1, meaning they dropped to 2nd place whilst Newcastle leapfrogged them to the Championship crown.
Newcastle will need to make St. James' Park a fortress, as well as replicating some of those solid away performances from last year, if they want to survive and thrive in the Premier League next season.

Opening Fixtures
 
TOT (H), HUD (A), WHU (H), SWA (A), STO (H), BHA (A), LIV (H), SOU (A), CRY (H) BUR
 
Given the infrastructure and pedigree of a team like Newcastle United, this is a decent opening 10 fixtures for them, where they play both of the other promoted teams interspersed with other winnable games against Crystal Palace, Stoke and Burnley. They only welcome two of the big boys in this time, with both of these games at St. James' Park, where a crowd of over 50,000 passionate geordies will be waiting to provide that '12th man' phenomenon.
Given the start they have and the likely low prices of their assets, their players are definitely ones to look at, that could provide FPL managers with great value.

Players Worth Considering

Midfield - Matt Ritchie

Ritchie was one of the most influential players for Newcastle last year, scoring 12 goals and notching 7 assists in 40 appearances in the Championship, from the right hand side of midfield in Benitez' 4-4-1-1 system. He averaged 2.7 shots and 1.9 key passes per game as well as 1.8 crosses per game. Of course, he won't be able to keep that rate up throughout the entire Premier League campaign, but in a patch of games, like the opening 10 where the fixtures are favourable, he might be able to produce something similar to this.

 
 
Ritchie is also Newcastle's penalty taker and had a 100% rate with them last season in all competitions. Priced at £6.0m for Bournemouth in the 2015/16 season, I would expect him to come in at £6.5m based on the fact that that was Bournemouth's first season in the top flight, where as Newcastle are a team who have been and done it in the Premier League and he's one their key players that also has penalties.

Goalkeepers – Elliot/Darlow/Krul

With Krul coming back from his loan spell in Holland, Newcastle have a real dilemma on their hands with regard to keepers. Best to wait and see what happens over the summer for this.


Defence – Lascelles/Clark/Yedlin 

Newcastle kept 19 clean sheets last season with the majority of them coming with these two being paired as the centre backs. More than that, they both scored 3 goals and managed assists, Clark getting 2 and Lascelles bagging 1. Given the fact they both scored a decent return of goals and a few assists to go with it, they might both end up coming in at £5.0m – for reference, Daniel Ayala managed a similar attacking return in the Championship for Middlesborough and came in at £5.0m. That price might just put us off going for either of the centre back pairing.

Yedlin is perhaps the most interesting prospect in the Newcastle defence. He managed a goal and 5 assists from just 27 appearances (6 of those as a sub). Anita however, is the preferred option at right back as perhaps the more solid of the two, but only notched 1 assist and no goals from his 27 appearances. If Anita picks up an injury or Yedlin gets a look in from a drop in performance, he definitely has the potential to get decent returns and will likely be priced at £4.5m.

Attack - A Word Of Caution
 
Dwight Gayle was their top goalscorer last season with 23 goals. So whats the issue? Well having looked into it, as I'm sure the Newcastle fans will tell you, Gayle was used largely in rotation with the likes of Diame, Mitrovic, Perez and Murphy, so only actually scored those goals from 32 appearances, where 6 of those were from the bench. There were many games where Perez was paired with Mitrovic, or Diame was paired with Mitrovic, or Perez with Murphy etc. Gayle sat on the bench for these and wasn't injured. Will Benitez do the same in 17/18? It remains to be seen, but I thought it was important to note it for any FPL managers eyeing Gayle up.

Summary

At this point, Matt Ritchie seems the best prospect from an FPL perspective and the only one I would advise considering from the off. There's too much uncertainty around the rest to warrant a place in our teams from the start. The likes of Gayle and Yedlin, in particular, are certainly ones to keep an eye on as the season progresses however.

As mentioned before, Newcastle have the infrastructure and pedigree to re-solidify themselves in the Premier League and I expect them to do so. Provided they make some decent signings and rid themselves of any deadwood through the summer, I think they will survive and finish in 13th-15th position.

Written by @FPL_Connect

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