The positions Newcastle United must strengthen in January - and the players who could be signed to fill them

Newcastle United hope to be busy in the January transfer window - with a number of players already shortlisted as potential targets. Here, we take a look at the positions Eddie Howe & Co must strengthen, with a quick mention for some of the names already linked:

<p>Newcastle United head coach Eddie Howe is hoping to bolster his squad in January. </p>

Newcastle United head coach Eddie Howe is hoping to bolster his squad in January.

Central defenders

One central defender is definitely required if not two given Newcastle’s clear and persistent problems at the back.

When you take a glance at the league table, you’ll see United sit second bottom. Take a closer look over to the right, and there it is - a chaotic 42 goals conceded, a shipping average of 2.2 per 90 minutes.

Indeed, the Magpies have recorded just one clean sheet - which set the foundation for their first and only win of the campaign so far against Burnley - in their opening 18 league games.

There is an argument to say there were further improvements against Manchester United with their equaliser coming via a scrappy Edinson Cavani goal.

However, heavy defeats already this season, most recently against Leicester City and Manchester City, is a strong indication that United would be naive not to bolster the heart of the defence.

Howe has relied mostly on captain Jamaal Lascelles and Fabian Schar but both have their faults. Lascelles has largely struggled for form, while Schar, albeit he’s been fairly solid for Howe, is great in possession but lacks physicality at times.

Federico Fernandez is still viewed by many supporters as the best all-round defender on the books but is currently sidelined with injury, alongside Paul Dummett.

Ciaran Clark, for the fantastic servant he has been for Newcastle since the Championship days, has frustrated fans with his performances, summed up by his early red card against Norwich City.

It’s an aging backline and a lot of the blame lies with the previous owners. Newcastle last signed a senior central defender in the summer of 2018 when Schar and Fernandez arrived.

Central defenders linked: Lloyd Kelly (Bournemouth), Sven Botman (Lille), Joe Rodon (Tottenham Hotspur), Abdou Diallo (Paris Saint-Maximin), James Tarkowski (Burnley).

Full-backs

Full-back or wing-back, either role has often rested on the shoulders of Jacob Murphy and Matt Ritchie. Both were key in United’s surge to survival last season but their inability to defend has time after time been exploited this campaign.

Jamal Lewis had been reinstated into the starting XI by Howe and was building up ahead of steam before a hamstring injury at Liverpool ruled him out until mid-January.

Lewis’ encouraging return perhaps suggests right-back is more of a priority with Javier Manquillo a player that continues to divide opinion on Tyneside.

There is value in having Manquillo as a squad player, he can also play left-back - as he did against Manchester United - but during his four years at St James’ Park, the Spaniard has struggled to nail down a starting place.

Emil Krafth, after his excellent performance against Man United, might feel he has something to add but when there is the possibility of signing England’s Kieran Trippier, it’s a no-brainer.

Full-backs linked: Kieran Trippier (Atletico Madrid). Lucas Digne (Everton).

Central midfielders

An overcrowded area and one that is producing very little quality at the moment.

Central midfield problems dated back to last season before Joe Willock temporarily filled the gap with energy, driving runs into the box and goals, which clinched a club-record equalling seven goals in seven consecutive games.

However, Willock has struggled to reach anywhere near the heights of last term since his loan from Arsenal was made permanent and as a result, the midfield has come under the spotlight again.

Jonjo Shelvey has begun to receive plaudits again but there is a feeling that the midfield - which also includes Sean Longstaff, Jeff Hendrick and Isaac Hayden - lacks exactly what it’d hope Willock would bring.

Now, Joelinton’s recent performances suggest United had a prime Patrick Vieira at their disposal all along but It’d be wrong to pin all hope of a £40million player who was signed as a forward.

Central midfielders linked: Aaron Ramsey (Juventus), Boubacar Kamara (Marseille), Idrissa Gueye (Paris Saint-Germain).

Strikers

This was vital regardless of Callum Wilson’s fitness situation. The fact Wilson is expected to be out for a lengthy period of time only increases its priority.

Without Wilson, Howe side’s lacks any real kind of natural goalscorer. Allan Saint-Maximin proved to be a greater threat down the middle in 2021, but he too is quite often an injury concern.

Any injury to the club’s number nine understandably sparks immediate fears among supporters, not least when their club need goals to remain in the Premier League.

Newcastle still have Dwight Gayle on their books but the 32-year-old has virtually been forgotten about, despite quite bafflingly signing a new three-year deal in the summer.

Of course, with Wilson set to be out of action until mid-February, more opportunities are likely to fall Gayle’s way but his underwhelming amount of goals at Premier League level doesn’t inspire much confidence.

That is where a back-up striker, someone who can fill the Wilson void, comes in extremely handy. Goalscorers are hard to find, not least in January, so United need to be clever with their business.

There are reports Newcastle may look to strike a loan-to-buy deal with a club overseas.

Strikers linked: Luka Jovic (Real Madrid), Moussa Dembele (Lyon), Arthur Cabral (Basel).