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All eyes on Newcastle for EPL’s January arms race

MANCHESTER, UNITED KINGDOM (AFP) – Three months on since a takeover by the Saudi sovereign wealth fund was given the green light by the Premier League, Newcastle have the chance to splash their new-found wealth in the January transfer window.

The Magpies are badly in need of reinforcements just to remain in the English top-flight after winning just one of their 19 games this season.

Newcastle’s last two matches have even been postponed because they were unable to field a team with enough senior players due to coronavirus infections and a growing injury list that could dictate who arrives at St James’ Park in the next 27 days.

Defenders are expected to be top of the shopping list after Newcastle shipped a Premier League record 80 goals in 2021, 42 of which have come this season.

England international right-back Kieran Trippier is reportedly close to a GBP25 million (USD34 million) move from Atletico Madrid with Lille centre-back Sven Botman also a target.

“Trippier is an extraordinary footballer who has given us a lot and we will try to keep him,” said Atletico manager Diego Simeone after Sunday’s 2-0 win over Rayo Vallecano. “But nowadays, when a player wants to leave, you can’t force them to stay.”

Newcastle’s head coach Eddie Howe. PHOTO: AP

Injuries to Newcastle’s two most potent attacking weapons Callum Wilson and Allan Saint-Maximin have also seen some star strikers linked with a move to Tyneside, including Arsenal’s out of favour Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

Despite record numbers of coronavirus cases as Britain battles the Omicron variant, Premier League clubs have so far been allowed to maintain full crowds.

That has avoided a repeat of the economic losses from matchday revenue of the past two seasons and the English top-flight’s record breaking USD2.7 billion United States (US) television rights with NBC to kick in next season will only increase its financial advantage over other major leagues.

However, there is not expected to be much transfer activity among those towards the top of the table with Manchester City already taking control of the title race thanks to a 10-point lead over Chelsea.

City have even offloaded Ferran Torres to Barcelona for a reported EUR55 million. But manager Pep Guardiola confirmed the Spanish international’s departure will not mean City will be addressing their lack of a natural striker.

Chelsea have been rumoured with a move for Everton’s Lucas Digne to cover for left-back Ben Chilwell, who has been ruled out for the rest of the season with a knee injury. Liverpool look set to rely on what they have in reserve to cope without Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane while they are at the Africa Cup of Nations.

The prospect of Champions League riches next season could lure Arsenal, Tottenham or West Ham into strengthening as they battle for a top-four finish.

Manchester United trail all three sides but there are more likely to be departures than arrivals at Old Trafford with interim boss Ralf Rangnick admitting his squad is “too big”.

French international Anthony Martial is reportedly close to a loan move to Sevilla after expressing his desire to leave, while Dean Henderson, Jesse Lingard, Juan Mata and Donny van de Beek could also move on in search of more first-team action.

However, United are another of the number of Premier League sides to have had games called off in December due to COVID outbreaks and Rangnick warned clubs will have to factor in the risk more such cases could have on selection before letting players go.

“I think we could do with a bigger squad than maybe in times without COVID,” said the German.