Premier League

5 Players Newcastle Should Target in January

 • by Matt Gault
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The January transfer window is only a few weeks away, and Rafael Benítez’s recruitment plans at Newcastle United should be very much in full swing.

Following a frustrating summer in which Benítez constantly seemed at loggerheads with owner Mike Ashley over new signings, even with the ongoing takeover talks, the Magpies boss is expected to be given funds to bolster his squad in the winter transfer window.

Benítez has led the Magpies to 15th place in the Premier League after picking up four wins in 15 games after being promoted from the Championship.

After a good star, the North-East side have stuttered of late, losing five of the last six, but with further investment, there is an outside chance of gaining a spot in the top half.

Here, Football Whispers looks at five players Newcastle should target in January.

Andros Townsend

There is a feeling that Benítez isn’t entirely happy with Christian Atsu and Jacob Murphy being his only wide options for the left flank, so the Spaniard is likely to prioritise signing a winger in January – and Townsend has been a name on many people’s lips.

Although Newcastle were ultimately relegated in the 2015/16 season, Townsend impressed in the second-half of the season in the North East following a £12million switch from Tottenham Hotspur. The winger scored four goals in 13 appearances and earned himself an admirer in Benítez, who tried to sign him last January too.

Despite Palace’s wretched start to the season, Townsend has been a rare ray of light, averaging 1.9 key passes and 2.9 dribbles per game, more than Atsu’s average of just over 1 in each category.

An old-fashioned winger, Townsend would certainly inject some pace into the Newcastle side, while his end product and defensive contributions are also appealing traits. If Newcastle want to sign him permanently, his price-tag may be an issue, but there is a strong possibility that his name will be mentioned come January.

Dennis Praet

Heavily linked with the talented Sampdoria midfielder in the summer, Newcastle may revive their attempts to prise Praet away from the Serie A club in January.

Praet established himself as one of the most exciting prospects in Belgian football when he broke through Anderlecht’s fabled youth academy. After signing for Samp in 2016, the 23-year-old made 19 starts, scoring once and adding one assist.

However, while the Everton transfer target is young and clearly still a work in progress, there are signs that he can develop into an intelligent playmaker in the mold of his compatriot Kevin De Bruyne.

Praet is technically accomplished, possesses good vision and passing and makes intelligent runs in between the opponent’s defence and midfield, a type of craft and guile that Benítez values highly. Although he said he was happy at Sampdoria in the summer, he also admitted a desire to play in the Premier League.

“I’ve never played in the Premier League but I’d be happy to go there one day,” he said. Newcastle might not need more encouragement than that.

Cenk Tosun

According to reports recently, Beskitas striker Cenk Tosun is a Tottenham Hotspur and Crystal Palace target, as well as attracting interest from the Magpies.

Benítez is certainly in the market for a striker, with doubts surrounding the long-term futures of Brighton & Hove Albion target Aleksandar Mitrović, and last season’s top-scorer Dwight Gayle and summer signing Joselu.

The Spaniard has been starting summer signing Joselu, but the jury is out on his merits as a finisher. Tosun would be a strong candidate to provide some stiff competition, scoring 24 goals last season to help Besiktas win the Super Lig title.

The 26-year-old has gone from strength to strength in the last couple of seasons and has cemented his place in the Turkey national team. He is a clinical finisher, comfortable on both feet, and counts former Newcastle striker Demba Ba as a role model.

Newcastle have reportedly sent scouts to watch Tosun on multiple occasions this season and, although interest in the striker from elsewhere remains strong, the Magpies may look to steal a march with a bid in January.

Pontus Jansson

With an in-form Jamaal Lascelles, Ciaran Clark, Florian Lejeune and Chancel Mbemba, Newcastle arguably have their strongest crop of centre-backs in recent memory.

However, with Lejeune’s injury woes since joining in the summer, it may prompt Benítez into pre-empting a defensive crisis as the season progress and takes its toll on the players.

Pontus Jansson, the impressive Leeds United defender, could be the man to provide more depth at the back. The 26-year-old has an average tackle success rate of 85.7 per cent, while he is first in the Championship’s clearance charts, averaging 9.3 per game.

Jansson is also astute on the ball, completing 86.9 per cent of his passes, so he could be a composed, astute presence for the Magpies up against the Premier League’s dazzling array of attacking talent.

Benítez knows that adding more strength to the back-line is always a smart idea, and could do a lot worse than Leeds’ rock-solid Sweden international.

Leigh Griffiths 

The Celtic and Scotland striker, who is also a West Bromwich Albion target, has been regularly linked with a Newcastle switch since the summer.

Although some supporters may question the difficult transition from Scottish to Premier League football, Griffiths has proven himself as a clinical finisher who has improved hugely in the last few years.

The 27-year-old has scored 94 goals in 169 appearances since joining the Hoops in 2013, and has started this season well by averaging a league goal every 136 minutes.

At this point in his career, Griffiths may be open to giving Premier League football a crack and, with his goal tally, he would certainly provide competition for Joselu up top.

As well as being a deadly finisher, Griffiths poses a considerable threat with his free-kicks, which England goalkeeper Joe Hart found out when he was left grasping the air twice in as many minutes during the 2-2 draw with Scotland at Hampden Park in June.

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