Newcastle were frankly horrific last year after they lost Alan Pardew to Crystal Palace, and just managed to cling onto Premier League football for this season. The arrival of Steve McClaren should be a big improvement over the woeful John Carver, and he has gone about his business this offseason nicely adding a couple of good pieces.
The addition of Georginio Wijnaldum could end up being the signing of the season and the potential additions of Aleksander Mitrovic and Chancel Mbemba would mean he upgraded the core of a side that badly needed it. The departures of both Jonas Gutierrez and Ryan Taylor are sad from a fan point of view but for fantasy, if they are the main losses, then you would accept that. There are rumours, however that Papiss Cisse and Remy Cabella are on the way out of the door with Cisse being the bigger disaster of the two, unless Mitrovic is signed, then it could be a blessing in disguise for fantasy owners. I am very excited for this Newcastle side this season and I hope they can play the way their potential players suggest they could.
Early Fixtures Outlook: vs Southampton, @ Swansea, @ Man United, vs Arsenal, @ West Ham, vs Watford
A really tough first month of the season for Newcastle as they face four teams who all finished in the top 10, meaning we may find out just what this team is made very early in the season. The month ends with a trip to Old Trafford followed by a welcoming of Arsenal to St. James Park. So, Newcastle will be looking to pick up points against Southampton and Swansea before things get a little easier in September as they face West Ham and host new boys, Watford. Clean sheets may be tough to come by in the first month with some decent attacking teams but they could quickly make up for that in the first two weeks of September. Attack- wise the story is similar, but the big clubs can start slow so Newcastle will be looking to try and scare United and Arsenal with hard fast attacking.
Goalkeeper Outlook: Tim Krul (£4.5m)
Krul has alternated outstanding year with ordinary year over the last four seasons, and right now we are coming off the back of ordinary one. In 2013/14 he scored 123 points with 10 clean sheets and in 2011/12 he scored 156 points with 15 clean sheets. Those good seasons have also been the ones he has played over 3000 minutes, so hopefully he can stay on the field all year this season. The defence for Newcastle last year was woeful but Krul also had a tough year which hopefully he can bounce back from. The potential addition of Mbemba, as well as the return from loan of the promising Jamaal Lascelles, should help solidify the defence and give Krul a better chance of keeping double digit clean sheets whilst also making a decent number of saves. At £4.5m Krul is one of the cheaper goalkeepers who could pay big dividends if you are willing to bank on his pattern continuing.
Stud: Daryl Janmaat (£5.0m)
Janmaat had an extremely impressive first season in the Premier League for Newcastle. Playing at right back he got forward plenty and ended the season with a fantastic eight assists and one goal scored. His efforts going forward were enough to make up for the fact that Newcastle were a mess at the back, keeping just eight assists whilst he was on the field. Janmaat should be able to do the same again this year and with Newcastle adding more talent going forward, as well as having Cisse available all year, he should be able to get forward and get the ball in the box for five-plus assists once again. At £5.0 he strikes me as a relative bargain as he is outside of the top 30 defenders on price, but should be well inside the top 20 come season’s end.
Sleeper: Jamaal Lascelles (£4.5m)
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After spending last season on loan back at Nottingham Forest, Lascelles has been reasonably impressive in the pre-season for Newcastle. With Fabricio Coloccini yet to play a minute of pre-season action, Lascelles could be making a strong claim for one of those two centre back spots. Whilst initially that may not be exciting fantasy-wise for Newcastle, the young Englishman is a strong looking lad who should be able to grow into the Premier League and could be a real force in the future. Now all he needs is a strong leader alongside him to keep him focused and offer him support and we could have a very good defender on our hands both for Newcastle and for fantasy.
The other guy in this defence that excites me is Paul Dummett, who was really impressive last season before getting injured. He is expected to have recovered fully and should be ready to take his position at left back to start the season, where hopefully he will be able to get forward a bit more, like Janmaat, and get crosses into the box. The only danger to Dummett is that Massadio Haidara has started the pre-season really strongly and could sneak his way into the starting line-up to start the season, rendering both of them useless for salary cap leagues initially. But both could be sneaky late round picks in draft leagues. At centre back the position is a mess with Steven Taylor currently the most likely guy to partner with Lascelles, given the lack of faith in Michael Williamson that Newcastle seem to have. Ideally, Coloccini can get on the pitch and prove it should be him but if not then let’s hope the rumours about Mbemba are true because he could be just the leader Newcastle need at the back to help increase the value of all those starting defenders.
Stud: Georginio Wijnaldum (£7.0m)
Wijnaldum had a fantastic season for PSV last year, scoring 14 goals in 33 games with three assists. That is just what Newcastle needs this year after struggling to net opportunities last year. And if Wijnaldum settles in, well, then, he could be a must own in FPL very quickly. His goals and assist alone would have been worth 79 points last year, and when you add in the appearances we are looking at a 145 point player before we even consider bonus points etc. 145 points would have put him just outside the top 10 at midfield last year and at £7m he is valued outside of the top 20. Now, whilst you cannot bank on him scoring the same number of goals again this season, I still expect a fairly decent return given the talent Newcastle have/are assembling around him to start this season.
Sleeper: Rolando Aarons (£5.0m)
Aarons caused a ripple of excitement through the fantasy community last season, even though he played just 132 minutes in the entire season. In that short time he scored one goal and had one assist, giving him 13 points. Naturally, you cannot say that he could have kept scoring points at the rate of one every 10 minutes of game time, especially when you consider he is just a teenager. But the promise is there. Aarons will have to fight to earn the trust of McClaren in pre-season and prove he is over his injury problems, but he has made a great start in that department looking fast and dangerous in the games so far.
Newcastle do have another couple of dangerous midfield options in Moussa Sissoko and Jack Colback, who were there two highest scoring fantasy midfielders last season. Sissoko is the one I would expect to be the better player this season, and at £6m is decently priced if he can use the new found freedom of not being the best player in midfield and make the most of it. Colback should play the more reserved role but he still managed to make a big impact in clocking up 114 points last season. With Cabella supposedly on the way out, the next biggest threat is perhaps Gouffran, if he can beat out Cheick Tiote and Vernon Anita for the other central midfield role. Gabriel Obertan could be a sneaky cheap option if Aarons gets injured or struggles again but he isn’t someone I would bank on.
Stud: Aleksander Mitrovic (£TBC)
I am jumping the gun a fraction here, potentially, as this deal has yet to be announced, but I think it will be very soon. And then Mitrovic jumps to the top of the Newcastle pecking order. With the ever trouble making Papiss Cisse seemingly out of the door as soon as McClaren can find a new home for him, there shouldn’t be too much trouble for Mitrovic to stamp his authority. I have been a big fan of Mitrovic whilst he was at Anderlecht and he is a dominant forward in the box as well as being strong in the air to make up for his lack of pace. A hard working striker is just what Newcastle need and he fits that bill for me and should be a great pick-up in all leagues (price depending in salary cap leagues) to serve as the low end #2 high end #3 striker.
Sleeper: Ayoze Perez (£5.5m)
Perez was quietly decent last year in scoring 98 fantasy points thanks largely to the seven goals he managed to bag. Perez demonstrated that he is more than capable of playing upfront or just in behind the striker and whilst opportunities may be limited initially he is looking likely to be second choice if Mitrovic struggles or succumbs to injury. A lot of Perez’s value is tied to the sale of Cisse but as I expect to go then Perez is worth a watch on the waiver wire in draft leagues.
Newcastle are looking to sell both Cisse and Emmanuel Riviere and if both of those go then Adam Armstrong would be left as the third striking option. Whilst that isn’t going to get the blood pumping on draft day Armstrong could be a sneaky pick up later in the season if Newcastle have injury issues. The man who could throw a spanner in the works here is Charlie Austin who was rumoured to have completed a move last week but his arrival may be complicated by the imminent arrival of Mitrovic as a rival for the lone striker job.
Predicted Opening day line-up:
GK: Tim Krul
RB: Daryl Janmaat
DC: Jamaal Lascelles
DC: Chancel Mbemba (taking a punt here that they also complete this deal)
LB: Paul Dummett
MC: Jack Colback
MC: Yoan Gouffran
RW: Rolando Aarons
LW: Moussa Sissoko
CAM: Georginio Wijnaldum
FWD: Aleksander Mitrovic