A chip and a chair.
If you are a poker player, you are well aware of this popular mantra. If not, it simply means that no matter how bad things are going, as long as you've got one chip to bet with and a seat at the table, you still have a chance to turn things around, no matter how badly things have gone. This is how Newcastle United should be looking at the future after a dismal 2014/2015 season that started off in mediocrity, became worse, and then nearly turned into relegation. But they managed to squeeze a few points late to stay up. Certainly not worth a pat on the back, but Newcastle did the most important thing, stay alive. A chip and a chair.
It would only make sense, under new manager Steve McClaren , to wipe the slate completely clean and give the club a new identity. The attitude of the club, especially with such a fickle fan base notorious for fanning the flames, is as vital a need to address as any actual personnel moves. So McClaren is tasked with shaping this team over the summer into something different, using many of the pieces that underachieved last season. There are only so many changes to the roster one can make in one summer, but McClaren has already pulled off some major acquisitions that just might get this club going in the right direction.
Roster Movement to Date
Before looking at the moves that have become official, first a quick mention of the transfers that are pending. In the case of the Magpies, Chancel Mbemba of Anderlecht is thought to be a matter of hours away from signing, having completed his medical already, so for all intents and purposes, he can be counted in. Fabricio Coloccini was thought to be on his way out of St. James' but McClaren has recently stated he would prefer to keep the incumbent team captain. Papiss Cisse and Remy Cabella are both thought to be for sale as the additions below may make them more expendable. Cisse has been a bit of a headache to the club for the past year and the presence of Mitrovic, who will be gunning for the main striker spot, could lead to dissent. Cabella has failed to impress Alan Pardew, John Carver, and reportedly now McClaren. With the major signing below and the return of Siem de Jong from injury may help see that move happen soon.
Sammy Ameobi (loan)
Newcastle were late to the party in the summer signing spree, but the two they have brought in along with Chancel Mbemba are of the sort to completely change the identity of the team. Wijnaldum will be a nailed on starter from the jump. Mitrovic will probably be worked in somewhat gradually in the opening weeks (he still hasn't made a preseason appearance for the new club) and Mbemba will likely partner Coloccini if the Argentinian stays, but may also require a week or two on the bench before the switch is made. All three are quite young and in a position to get even better than they already are, though now they will be playing against much better opposition. It helps that Mitrovic and Mbemba are already close teammates as both were playing for Anderlecht last season. If the Magpies are still shopping, they should be looking out for a midfielder who plays on the left, to upgrade Yoan Gouffran, or another defender, as last season was a disaster in defense and injuries ran rampant.
Manager - Steve McClaren
A disciple of Sir Alex Ferguson, McClaren first made his mark as manager with Middlesbrough early in the 21st century. He steered that club to a trophy and parlayed that into a gig as England manager. It has been a virtual hot potato of a career since for him, never spending more than two seasons in charge of a club that included Nottingham Forest, Wolfsburg, FC Twente, and most recently, Derby County. Derby looked destined for promotion last season but faded near the end, had to play in the Championship playoffs, and lost. Judging from these experiences, it would seem McClaren is capable of bringing success but that he has trouble maintaining whatever formula is working.
Keepers - Tim Krul, Rob Elliot, Karl Darlow
Through good times and bad for Newcastle United, Tim Krul has consistently been the top keeper of choice for the past five seasons. There is little to challenge him this term, with Elliot and Darlow firmly behind him in the depth chart. Elliot appears to be a backup in this league for good but Darlow, who has spent several seasons loaned out, is entering the age where he could draw attention should Krul struggle mightily. Krul is the one to own in fantasy though, but bear in mind it has been a while since he has made an impact in fantasy circles.
The defense was atrocious last year and injuries made matters worse. There is little to feel good about from a fantasy perspective until they prove this season that they are a respectable unit. Darryl Janmaat is the best of the bunch because he is extremely active on the attacking front and does not need a clean sheet to have an effective day. The left fullback is somewhat up in the air. It would seem to be Massadio Haidara's if he wants it, but Haidara has not developed in the way the club had hoped to this point and is still a ways away from claiming the spot as his own. Paul Dummett can play there and at center back, giving him the versatility to earn him minutes throughout the season. He can be good for fantasy teams if it is clear he is holding a spot down for some time, as he has set piece work in his locker.
At center back, assuming he sticks around, you can count on Coloccini to fill one of the spots. He has been absent from preseason with an Achilles injury but expect him to wear the armband Week 1 if he is fit. Steven Taylor is working himself back from a long term injury and would figure to be the top choice to partner Coloccini from among the current choices with Mark Williamson behind him in the pecking order and Jamal Lascelles even further back. Again, Chancel Mbemba looks to be coming to St. James', so while Steven Taylor might look like a nice 4.0 option as a 5th defender in the fpl game, he may not have the job for long. Unless you want attacking returns from Janmaat, it would probably be wise to avoid Newcastle defenders until they show you something this season.
Newcastle have a roster catered toward a 4-2-3-1 formation. It has looked to continue under McClaren in preseason but the new skipper may mix it up. If they go with 2 CDMs, then expect Cheick Tiote and Jack Colback to have their names on the team sheet week in and week out. Tiote is not a fantasy play, unless you need a minimum priced 5th defender in fpl. He is a yellow card machine. Colback on the other hand, especially in non-fpl scoring formats, can be quite helpful to fantasy managers. While Janmaat was delivering crosses from the right, Colback was the man on the left. Anita is behind in the depth charts.
For the attacking midfielders, Wijnaldum is looking the business and is appropriately more expensive than his teammates. He is a risk to use from the jump though. No matter how good he may be, his output still hinges on the positive contributions of his teammates. Moussa Sissoko doesn't offer much pizzazz as a fantasy pick but has shown runs of form in the past to keep his name relevant. Remy Cabella could be on the outs and after a disappointing first season should be avoided for now. What you see is what you get from Yoan Gouffran, which is to say not very much most matches. The true hidden gem here is Aarons. Brimming with talent, Aarons suffered through an injury plagued previous season. Looking sharp this summer, he has a very good shot at taking the LM spot away from Gouffran and could be a bargain for fantasy managers. Monitor him closely. Siem de Jong has plenty to prove after being injured almost all of last season, but looks renewed with a new manager present, and has made the most of his preseason opportunities. He too deserves to be monitored.
Cisse was very effective when he was on the pitch last season, sporting a goal-per-minutes-played ratio as high as the best strikers in the league. Problem was he wasn't on the pitch enough, having tournament obligations, injuries and suspensions eating into his season. McClaren looks to have a plan in place to move on from Cisse with the addition of Mitrovic. A 20 goal scorer at the age of 20 in the Jupiter Pro League, Mitrovic is one of the more promising strikers of his age in the world and the Magpies are fortunate to have him. He has the build to thrive in the PL, and has an attitude that can get him into trouble but can also help him dominate his appointment. It remains to be seen how soon Mitrovic can supplant Cisse, but McClaren should just stick with the hot hand if Cisse sticks around. Ayoze Perez was one of the few bright spots last season and will continue to develop this term. His playing time is uncertain, but he has the ability to play behind the striker and earn regular minutes. Riviere was terrible until the final game of last season and should be off the fantasy radar. Armstrong is the homegrown striker of the future but will be a longshot for fantasy impact this season.
Even the most optimistic of pundits will have to temper expectations for Newcastle at the start of the season. Growing pains will be a natural part of the process and with Southampton, Swansea, Manchester United and Arsenal making up the first four opponents, it could look like doom a month into this season. In a league like fpl, there is little reason to want to start the season with any of them in your squad. However, in draft leagues, most of the Magpies will probably be undervalued and while they may not offer great returns early on, there are some serious long-term bargains there, particularly Aarons and Mitrovic.