NEWCASTLE: Newcastle United aim to have two new players in their ranks by the time they face Watford in a Premier League relegation battle crunch clash.
Eddie Howe’s Magpies host the Hornets at St. James’ Park on Saturday, and Arab News understands United chiefs are setting their sights on at least two more new recruits this week to add to the capture of Kieran Trippier from Atletico Madrid.
A striker and central defender are believed to be top of their list of priorities, however strengthening other areas has not been ruled out.
A central defender has been the priority for the club since the window opened and sources at the club have suggested hopes are high that a deal for Sven Botman, of Lille, will be struck in the next few days.
United have been locked in negotiations for the towering central defender since last week and a breakthrough is expected, with the Netherlands international set to command a fee in excess of $40 million.
Sevilla’s Diego Carlos is another player Newcastle are keen to sign — and a deal is thought to be less complicated to strike — however, it is not yet clear whether the capture of Botman would curtail that interest.
Further forward, a move for Norwich City’s Todd Cantwell is on the agenda, with the graceful attacking midfielder, interestingly out of favor with the Canaries, available for around $16.3 million.
The search for a striker is proving a little more difficult, with Divock Origi, liked by United transfer chiefs, tied down by Liverpool due to the Africa Cup of Nations involvement of Mo Salah and Sadio Mane.
And while talk of a move for Burnley’s Chris Wood surfaced in the press over the weekend, Arab News has been told Burnley will not sell the New Zealand international in January. In fact, Wood is seen as a key part of Sean Dyche’s side well beyond the end of the current season.
The same theory applies to James Tarkowski, with whom United have also retained an interest, with the Clarets in no mood to sell one of their prized assets to an immediate relegation rival.
The striker hunt was brought into sharp focus on Saturday as the Magpies, without a recognized front man, were dumped out of the FA Cup at the third-round stage by League One Cambridge United in a tie which turned out to be the shock of the competition so far.
With Callum Wilson now confirmed to be out for up to eight weeks with a calf issue, and Dwight Gayle’s unexplained absence understood to be COVID-19-related, Howe refused to be drawn on whether getting a striker in before Saturday was an absolute must for Newcastle.
“Everyone has to stand up and fill that gap,” he said, in the aftermath of the 1-0 reverse at St. James’ Park, which was watched by Saudi Public Investment Fund head and United chairman Yasir Al-Rumayyan.
“Yes, it was a huge blow losing Callum. Also losing Dwight Gayle was a huge blow. That means we were playing without a recognized striker,” Howe added.
“Maxi (Allan Saint-Maximin) has played there and played very well in games we are counter attacking. We had to build the game ourselves and take the initiative and I think with that, we are not used to it, haven’t done it with any regularity and we were not good enough to execute what we had to do. There are no excuses for that.
“We missed that focal point. We tried to change things around in the game and give ourselves a different look and it didn’t work.
“Credit how they defended and their goalkeeper but all the ball we had around their box we should have done better from those situations.”