Newcastle United FC – Recruitment Analysis – Part Two

Left Back 

Jamal Lewis had a fairly solid start to life in a black and white shirt, and there seems little doubt that he is seen as the long term starting left back at the club (or at least until he has gained enough value to sell on for profit, as seems to be the club’s current philosophy…). He is still young at just 22 and has his best years ahead of him, he is not the finished product but is a solid option who is on the whole decent defensively while also offering an attacking threat when allowed to. 

However, due to him being the only real senior left back at the club, he is relied upon to stay fit and play a lot of minutes and if he drops in form, there seem to be very few natural replacements who can help share the Northern Irishman’s workload. Furthermore, as mentioned previously Lewis is young, and it would perhaps be beneficial to bring in someone with more experience from whom he can learn and can provide competition. 

Consequently, a relatively experienced left back who can offer depth and competition would be a very useful addition to the Newcastle United squad.

The Targets

Option One: Jordan Amavi 

  • Nationality: French
  • Age: 26
  • Date of birth: 01/07/1994
  • Current Club: Olympique Marseille
  • Career: OGC Nice, Aston Villa, Olympique Marseille
  • Position: Left Back
  • Secondary Position: Left Midfield
  • Preferred foot: Left
  • Contract Ends: 30/06/2021 (Summer 2021)
  • Estimated Cost: January: ?? / Summer: Free

Marseille full back Jordan Amavi could be an intriguing option for Newcastle in order to strengthen and add depth to the left back role. Amavi, who once plied his trade in England with Aston Villa, has been fairly impressive since joining Marseille, regularly featuring as the side finished fourth, fifth and second (at the time of cancellation of the 2019/20 season) over the course of the last three years. However, since joining the French side for a fee of around £9 000 000, he has yet to renew his contract, and consequently is due to be available on a free transfer in the summer of 2021. 

Amavi enjoys getting forward, and provides a lot of energy down the left flank for Marseille, looking to provide width and get into crossing positions. His close control is to a decent standard and he possesses a good turn of pace that allows him to bypass defenders and open up space for himself. He is heavily left footed, meaning he rarely cuts inside, and he could look to be a bit more proactive at times, sometimes taking the easy option to go backwards rather than trying to pick out a forward ball. Amavi can supply quality deliveries from outwide and his ability to provide width would be desirable for a Newcastle side that have been known to use wing backs.

The full back is happy to venture forward with the ball at his feet if the space in front of him allows, but he often elects to take the simple option in order to maintain possession and doesn’t look to take on opponents unless in the final third. His link up play and off the ball movement can cause problems as he looks to get in behind the opposition full back on occasion, whilst he is always looking to stretch the opposing defensive line by hugging the touchline. 

Defensively, the 26 year old is capable of holding his own by utilising his pace to make recovery challenges or to get back into position quickly, whilst it also allows him to get round on the cover should the centre back require help. Amavi can be quite cynical at times when tackling, and does have a tendency to overcommit which can leave him vulnerable, and it would be an area for him to improve upon should he join. When he is on the back foot, he uses his match intelligence well to show the attacker away from goal when possible. Standing at 5’9 and with an average build, Amavi is not a particularly imposing physical presence.

Amavi has primarily been used to operating as the left back in a back four, however, his attacking intensity and quality would allow him to transition to being used as a wing back fairly easily should it be required. At just 26, Amavi is still a good age and has plenty of time ahead of him in his career, whilst he has been able to get consistent minutes under his belt for several seasons now. 

The Frenchman has experience in England, and has then gone away and improved his ability and could be ready for a retun to the Premier League through Newcastle United. Amavi would not be a complete replacement for Lewis, but would instead provide a healthy amount of competition and depth in the position, something which both Lewis and the squad could benefit from. 

Option Two: Patrick van Aanholt

  • Nationality: Dutch
  • Age: 30
  • Date of birth: 29/08/1990
  • Current Club: Crystal Palace
  • Career: Chelsea, Coventry City (L), Newcastle United (L), Leicester City (L), Wigan Athletic (L), Vitesse (L), Sunderland, Crystal Palace
  • Position: Left Back
  • Preferred foot: Left
  • Contract Ends: 30/06/2021 (Summer 2021)
  • Estimated Cost: January: ?? / Summer: Free

Dutch full back Patrick Van Aanholt could be an interesting option for Newcastle, with the 30 year old’s contract with Crystal Palace due to run out in the summer. The left back has bags of experience in the Premier League and has proven to be an impressive attacking threat whilst also holding his own in Palace’s more defensive style of play. He has played primarily in a back four over the last few seasons under Hodgson, but his attacking ability and willingness to get forward mean that he could likely adapt to a wing back role if required. 

Van Aanholt actually has a bit of history in the North East, having spent a very brief period on loan with the Magpies ten years ago before later moving permanently to their neighbouring rivals Sunderland, where he spent three seasons. As a result, he is no stranger to the country or region and would likely be able to settle quickly on Tyneside should a move materialise. He would offer a wealth of experience and provide competition and cover for Lewis whilst also possibly being able to help him develop certain areas of his game. 

There are some questions over whether Van Aanholt remains at the same level he was at the peak of his footballing career, and at 30 his skill sets and physical ability may start to gradually decline after a career in which he has played a lot of football. However, he is still able to provide an experienced and attacking option at left back, which is possibly what Newcastle should be looking for. 

The Dutchman loves to get forward, and has impressive close control and confidence in possession, whilst he is capable of delivering dangerous crosses from wide areas. His game has relied somewhat on his energy and pace to get up and down the left flank, but perhaps as he starts to lose a yard or two of speed over the next couple of years, he would be able to make up for this with his good understanding of the game and ability with the ball at his feet. 

Defensively, Van Aanholt has been known to switch off occasionally, and he enjoys the attacking side of the game more than the defensive side, but he has still shown over his career, especially in a team like Palace’s, that he can be solid when the opposition have possession. He shows a good understanding of when to tuck in and when to get forward, and isn’t phased when faced one on one with the winger running at him, due to his agility to match the changes in direction of the attacker and prevent them getting away from him. 

Van Aanholt does provide an intriguing option, as he is a Premier League quality left back who could still play an important role in a side like Newcastle’s, whilst adding depth to a position that requires it. However, there are some possible concerns, as reportedly his contract demands may be excessive, and it remains to be seen whether he would willing to move to Tyneside where he would likely face stiff competition for a starting spot. From the club’s perspective, in previous years this signing would have been unlikely due to the player’s age and wage, however, signings such as that of Jeff Hendrick, may indicate that Newcastle have a little more leeway compared with the “buy cheap and young and sell for profit” policy that has largely been in place during Mike Ashley’s tenure. 

Option Three: Jetro Willems

  • Nationality: Dutch
  • Age: 26
  • Date of birth: 30/03/1994
  • Current Club: Eintracht Frankfurt
  • Career: Sparta Rotterdam, PSV, Eintracht FrankfurtNewcastle United (L)
  • Position: Left Back
  • Secondary Position: Left Midfield
  • Preferred foot: Left
  • Contract Ends: 30/06/2021 (Summer 2021)
  • Estimated Cost: January: ?? / Summer: Free

Jetro Willems may also be a player that Newcastle turn to in their search for left back depth. The 26 year old moved to Tyneside on a season long loan for the 2019/20 campaign, however, his season was cut short after suffering a cruciate ligament injury, which also brought his time at Newcastle to an abrupt end. The Dutch international became very popular amongst the Magpies’ fanbase during his time with the club, scoring memorable goals against both Manchester City and Liverpool and showing a real pride in representing the club, and as a result there have been increasingly loud calls for him to be brought back to the North East. 

Willems primarily operated as a left wing back during his time on Tyneside, and provided a real attacking threat with his ability to drive past defenders and either cut inside or get to the by-line. In his 19 Premier League appearances with the club prior to his injury, Willems was able to score twice and register two assists, making him a real hit with the fans. His directness and combativeness when going forward allowed him to provide an injection of attacking flair from the left flank, whilst he displayed good levels of confidence and composure on the ball. 

Defensively, Willems was less convincing during his loan spell, often being caught out of position and failing to pick up his man at the back post. He also showed a lot more desire to run forward than track back and sometimes struggled in one v one situations. These defensive frailties were exposed on more than one occasion, however, due to his attacking exploits, they often seemed to be overlooked and as a result, Willems is remembered fondly by many of the Newcastle supporters. 

Furthermore, his attacking intent and defensive weaknesses were fairly well balanced when playing as a wing back in a back five, yet his ability to effectively act as a left back in a back four in the Premier League remains up in the air. Therefore, yes Willems could provide an interesting alternative should Newcastle elect to play in a system with wing backs, but should they elect to play with a back four, he may be less effective.

Finally, another issue that can’t really be ignored are Willems’ injury issues. The injury that brought his Newcastle United loan spell to an end was his third major knee injury before the age of 26, perhaps indicating that although he can provide a decent attacking threat when fit, keeping him fit for long periods may be a challenge (especially with Bruce’s rotation policy, or lack of). Despite his issues, many Newcastle fans would welcome him back with open arms and his positive attitude towards the club gained him a lot of plaudits, with the mental side of the game being as important as the physical. 

Other Possibilities:

Some other names that could be thrown into the mix in Newcastle’s search for depth at left back (based upon my research or supposed transfers links) are:

  • Diego Rico (AFC Bournemouth – 27)
  • Ryan Bertrand (Southampton – 31)
  • Miguel Trauco (Saint-Étienne – 28)
  • Tommaso Augello (UC Sampdoria – 26)
  • Brandon Williams (Manchester United – 20)

This concludes part two of this recruitment analysis series on Newcastle United. In part three we will examine potential targets for the next position: Right Backs.

Stats used to conduct search courtesy of Fbref.


Thank you very much for taking the time to read part two of this ‘Recruitment Analysis’. I would be more than happy to discuss the suggestions I have put forward here, or hear any other suggestions people may have regarding Newcastle’s transfer options. Furthermore, I would be delighted to hear any feedback, positive or negative, on the piece itself and would be happy to discuss it in more detail with anyone who wishes to. You can contact me via Twitter here or via email at thomasmillman@yahoo.com. Thank you

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