Ciaran Clark and Jamaal Lascelles of Newcastle United have their Covid-19 passes scanned as they arrive at the stadium prior to the Premier League match between Newcastle United and Manchester City at St. James Park on December 19, 2021 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England.
A lot of the focus ahead of the January transfer window has been on new faces joining Newcastle United’s bid to preserve their Premier League status.
But with a 25-man squad already in place, Eddie Howe and the Magpies hierarchy will have to make space for any new arrivals.
Tough decisions have to be made but one area that could and should provide an easy option to create space is the goalkeeping department.
Too many cooks in the goalkeeper department
United were met with much derision when they registered four different stoppers at the end of August with Martin Dubravka, Karl Darlow, Freddie Woodman and Mark Gillespie all taking their place in the squad.
At the age of 24, Woodman is quickly approaching a pivotal moment in his career and it’s time for his undoubted promise to either be realised on Tyneside or be handed a chance to flourish elsewhere.
One final loan move to a Championship club could be an option before Woodman is finally handed an opportunity to succeed Martin Dubravka as United’s long-term number one.
However, if another goalkeeper was to arrive in January - with Manchester United’s Dean Henderson linked - I would not be surprised if Woodman and one of Darlow or Gillespie were allowed to depart on a permanent basis.
Lack of defensive depth and quality stark
United’s much maligned defence will surely be improved throughout the next month and there are a number of options for possible departures throughout January.
The signing of Emil Krafth made little sense when he was brought in and he would be a prime candidate to leave St James’ Park if a buyer can be found.
Question marks must be raised over the future of centre-back Ciaran Clark give the standard of his recent performances too.
A fresh start could be required for a defender that served his purpose when he helped United return to the Premier League under Rafa Benitez.
The easy midfield shift
Eddie Howe’s midfield options have provoked much debate and the outgoing options in that department will be impacted by any incomings.
Matty Longstaff seems highly likely to return from an underwhelming loan at Aberdeen and could find a new temporary home throughout the second half of the season.
Elsewhere in midfield it seems as if Howe has a straight option between retaining the services of Matty’s brother Sean or allowing Jeff Hendrick’s unsuccessful stint on Tyneside to come to an end.
Much like Krafth, I never understood why Hendrick was brought to the club and neither player has done anything to suggest they will benefit the United boss during the second half of the season.
And the forgotten man finally set to go?
With Howe’s attacking options limited in both number and quality, it seems talk of Dwight Gayle’s future is well-founded and it would not be a surprise to see the striker plying his trade elsewhere at the end of January.
A number of United’s youngsters should also be handed the chance to impress in loan moves away from the clubs with the likes of Elliott Anderson, Joe White and Dan Langley attracting interest from elsewhere.
Finding the right loan moves for young players is one area where the club needs to focus and with several promising talents ready to test themselves elsewhere, what better time to improve in that department that throughout the next month.