How Newcastle United might already have their first summer signing lined up plus Bruno Guimaraes dilemma

Jordan Cronin’s Newcastle United’s analysis from the 1-1 draw at the London Stadium.
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Newcastle United remain four points above the Premier League relegation zone after drawing at West Ham United on Saturday.

Joe Willock scored his first goal of the campaign to cancel out Craig Dawson’s opener as Eddie Howe’s men extended their unbeaten run to six matches.

Here, our NewcastleWorld writer Jordan Cronin reflects on the 1-1 draw at the London Stadium:

Allan Saint-Maximin injury blow

Before the game had even kicked off, the news of Saint-Maximin’s absence - as broken by NewcastleWorld - put plenty of Magpies fans in a defeatist mood.

It was the first time the Frenchman failed to start a game under Howe after he picked up a calf injury in the 1-0 win against Aston Villa last time out.

OptaStats then fuelled the fire, revealing since the start of the 2019-20 season, the Magpies have won just three games without their talisman.

And given the way the game unfolded, it’s safe to say Saint-Maximin would have enjoyed his afternoon up against Ryan Fredericks and then Ben Johnson.

While Jacob Murphy performed well in place of the 24-year-old, Newcastle did lack that final bit of quality in the final third.

It was a good point but as Howe alluded to himself, it could have been all three - and Saint-Maximin could so easily have been the difference.

Performing without key players

This was a very good performance by Newcastle, and even more impressively, they did it without key players.

Saint-Maximin’s absence merely added to Howe’s woes with Kieran Trippier and Callum Wilson out until the final month of the season.

Any club would struggle without their creative talisman, their star right-back and top scorer but there is evidence United can cope.

It’s hard to remember the last time Newcastle went away from home and dictated possession like they did at the London Stadium.

Although West Ham were more than happy to let their visitors have the ball, it’s still one of the many examples of how United have improved under Howe.

Howe’s men look fitter, organised and have a huge amount of fight and determination about them - three areas that were severely lacking under the previous head coach.

There is a huge sense of togetherness that has been created by Howe - and hopefully that will carry United through.

Joe Willock is back to his best - so where does Bruno fit in?

May 23 was Willock’s last goal (272 days) for Newcastle before he broke his duck against the Hammers with a first-half equaliser.

And it was nothing more than the former Arsenal man deserved, who has excelled in the previous four matches against Leeds, Everton, Aston Villa and the Hammers.

Willock has looked like Willock of the old, the player United paid £20million for after his blistering loan spell last term.

No one could have expected Willock to keep his run of seven goals in seven consecutive games but up until the turn of the year, he looked a shadow of that player.

That’s all changed now however, Willock is back, with his surging runs a real highlight alongside his goal in the capital.

Up until recently, Willock was tipped as the man to make way for January signing Bruno Guimaraes with Jonjo Shelvey and Joelinton regulars under Howe.

Arguably, it’s the form of Willock and the latter two that is keeping the £35million Brazilian out of the starting XI.

Fans are desperate to see more of Bruno G but it’s almost impossible to drop the current midfield three.

Matt Targett - permanent move?

Targett is two games into his potentially short Newcastle career and he looks as though he has played in the back four for many, many years.

Restored to the starting XI after sitting out against his parent club Aston Villa, the left-back picked up where he left off on his debut versus Everton.

The 26-year-old was dependable as ever, sweeping up everything that came down his side. One of the highlights was his standout block from Michail Antonio in the first-half.

But he was a threat going forward too, with Targett creating the most chances (three) by any United player.

Interestingly, he was also on corner duty despite Jonjo Shelvey, Ryan Fraser and Jacob Murphy all on the field.

Should Targett maintains those performance levels, don’t be surprised if Newcastle try and test Villa’s resolve in the summer by launching a permanent move.

The relegation battle is tight

Newcastle’s six games unbeaten - consisting of three wins and three draws - has brought utmost confidence that survival will be achieved.

But once glance at the Premier League table shows Howe’s side, with a couple of defeats, could easily fall back into the relegation zone.

Beating Brentford next week would be absolutely huge for United and their chances of staying up. With three points, they’d leapfrog their hosts, who are on a torrid run.

Indeed, many are already tipping the Bees to be relegated - Thomas Frank’s side have picked up just one point from a possible 21.