After a tough relegation battle that ultimately ended in defeat, Newcastle bounced back by claiming the Championship trophy. Last season showed a lot of improvement, with a little luck needed to claim the title over the last three weeks. Can they be a source of FPL budget picks considering their relatively kind opening fixtures?
The top name in the Newcastle squad is Matt Ritchie and being the first name on set pieces, and most importantly penalties, provides excellent value at £6M. Ritchie ended last season with 12 goals and 7 assists in the league, and has shown his value previously with Bournemouth racking up 119 points in 15/16. Being the main creative spark in the Newcastle midfield, who have a kind set of fixtures from game week two until six, he could be a strong source of early points that lead to a price hike.
The best differential in the Newcastle squad has to be the £6.5M Dwight Gayle, who also has the credentials to save you money in the forwards department. With 23 goals in 32 league appearances (six from the bench), he was in fact scoring a goal every 93 minutes and made PFA Fan’s Championship Player of the Season. Being the main source of goals for Newcastle last season he will undoubtedly start the season leading the line. A return of 15+ goals will be what is expected and needed of Gayle if Newcastle are to survive, which for £6.5M would be terrific value. The only thing to keep an eye on will be the hamstring trouble that caused Gayle to miss many games down the back end of the season.
The Newcastle squad is pretty thin on wide attacking midfielders, with Yoan Gouffran currently out of contract and considering leaving the club. This would leave Christian Atsu as an interesting value pick within this already budget friendly squad. A squad player for most of last season Atsu staked a claim for the 17/18 season with two goals and an assist in his last four games. Atsu could therefore make an excellent fifth midfielder to save you some budget space.
Newcastle and Brighton finished with the joint best defence in the Championship for 16/17 and interestingly it was on the road where Newcastle were at their best defensively, conceding just 17 goals in 23 games whilst keeping 11 clean sheets. New signing Florian Lejeune is expected to be the first choice centre-back; most likely partnering him will be captain Jamaal Lascelles having undergone successful groin surgery this summer. Strengthening is expected at the fullback position so until either Yedlin or Dummett appear to have their respective positions held down investment should be minimal in that area. Unfortunately, at GK there is uncertainty over who will be the regular starter. Karl Darlow played for the majority of the season, but after Rob Elliot had fully recovered from a knee injury he did play the final three league games of the season.
Going forward the creative and goal scoring productivity rests firmly on the shoulders of Gayle and Ritchie who combined for 41% of Newcastle’s total league goals last season. With five excellent fixtures, GW 2: Huddersfield (a), GW 3: West Ham (h), GW 4: Swansea (a), GW 5: Stoke(h), GW 6: Brighton (a), there is a good opportunity for early investment. Benitez tends to favour a 4-2-3-1 and last season we saw a lot of rotation at the 10 position between Mohammed Diame and Ayoze Perez. This is expected to continue so limiting investment to Gayle, Ritchie and potentially Atsu seems sensible.
Overall Newcastle offer some excellent early season value in comparison to the other promoted teams and the lower half of the table. Tapering investment as the season goes on might be important however, as the step up in class from last season will ultimately limit Newcastle asset’s viability.