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Newcastle: Can Gayle force banish Benítez’s transfer inactivity blues?

Dwight Gayle of Newcastle United during a pre-season friendly match between Bradford City and Newcastle United at Northern Commercials Stadium on July 26, 2017 in Bradford, England.

Star man: Despite a series of injuries, Dwight Gayle scored 23 goals in 32 Championship appearances.

On the pitch

If he is given more opportunities to impress in the top flight than he got at Crystal Palace, he could prove a revelation.

Biggest summer buy: Quick, capable of making things happen but with a tendency to drift in and out of games, the midfielder Jacob Murphy has bags of potential for which Newcastle have paid £12m. The 22-year-old is one of a set of twins and some at Norwich think his brother Josh might end up the better player.

Breakthrough season: A World Cup winner with England Under-20s this summer, Adam Armstrong has just been shipped out on loan to the Championship side Bolton Wanderers until January. Considering Newcastle’s paucity of proven Premier League striking talent, a prolific run with the Trotters could earn him a recall.

Bad boy: Jonjo Shelvey occasionally engages his mouth before his brain but he was pivotal in Newcastle’s promotion push. He was found guilty under an FA misconduct charge of racially abusing an opponent last season, a charge he continues to deny.

Boo boy: Having spent last season on loan at Sunderland from Atlético Madrid, Javier Manquillo is doubly tainted by his association with Newcastle’s hated rivals and their ignominious slide out of the Premier League. His manager’s fabled control-freakery could make or break him.

Destination Russia: A native of Seattle, DeAndre Yedlin made several appearances off the bench for the USA at Brazil 2014 and the defender is likely to be a starter for his country should they qualify for Russia. It hasn’t been plain sailing: the USA currently occupy the last automatic spot in the Concacaf qualifying group.

Glass half-full: The board give Rafael Benítez their full backing, secure some of his transfer targets and consolidate their Premier League status with a mid-table finish from which to launch a serious drive towards European qualification.

Glass half-empty: The board doesn’t give Benítez its full backing and he leaves. The ensuing outrage on Tyneside results in ugly scenes outside St James’ Park, the team go into a tailspin and return to the Championship.

Off the pitch

The manager: He got Newcastle back to the Premier League as champions at the first time of asking but Benítez is the bookies’ favourite to be first manager to leave his post this season. The Spaniard is understood to be seething at Newcastle’s unwillingness to secure several of his transfer targets.

The owners: Mike Ashley has had an eventful off‑season. Details of an “unconventional” working life incorporating one particularly extreme drinking competition emerged in a court case alleging that the Sports Direct owner reneged on a £15m deal with a banker. Ashley won both the drinking contest and the lawsuit.

Richard & David Holmes’ fan’s view: As long as the spectre of Ashley hangs over NUFC it’s foolish to get too optimistic. But the Rafa effect should carry us through, just. Our midfield lacks steel and leadership, though. Prediction: 10th.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Barry Glendenning, for The Guardian on Friday 11th August 2017 12.00 Europe/London

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