In a relegation battle, you need cojones, and maybe that’s why Watford striker Troy Deeney is a Newcastle United transfer target.
Despite sitting in 13th, the Magpies are just two points off the bottom three, and ESPN claim Rafa Benítez has identified the Watford striker, who shot to prominence after claiming Arsenal lacked ‘cojones', as his No.1 January target.
It wasn’t a secret that the Spaniard wanted a forward in the summer. “If you see the squad, it’s obvious that we need a striker. We needed to bring some players in some positions to have competition,” he said.
“Dwight (Gayle) was doing really well last year. But it’s another level and we have to see if he can replicate something similar in the Premier League.
“We need competition in each position. Not just because they will be better, but we need bodies.
“You have to be sure that you have enough quality to keep the level.”
But Mike Ashley’s austerity plan saw them bring in Joselu from Stoke City for just £5million, well below the asking price for any decent striker in the Premier League – especially when you consider Championship side Middlesbrough are buying forwards for upwards of £10million.
The Spaniard has, perhaps unsurprisingly, hardly set the world on fire since arriving at St James’ Park, scoring just three league goals. Although that return makes him the Magpies' top Premier League goalscorer, alongside Dwight Gayle.
There’s no doubt more would be expected from Deeney, but how does he compare to the current crop at Newcastle? We’ve compared him to Joselu and Gayle.
Aleksandar Mitrović is still on the books at St James’ Park, but given his likely departure and lack of game time – just 89 minutes this season – we haven’t included him.
In terms of goals this season, Deeney has just two, both from the penalty spot, but he’s had limited game time at Watford, with Marco Silva preferring £18.5million record signing Andre Gray.
Per 90 minutes, that works out as 0.28, slightly worse than Gayle (0.3), but better than Joselu (0.2.).
Yet, his expected goals (xG) per 90 is just 0.13, suggesting he’s actually overperforming – unlike Joselu whose xG is 0.37.
Out of the three strikers, it is Deeney who has the best shot accuracy too – 67 per cent, although he does take the fewest efforts out of the trio – just 1.2 per 90. That is hardly the form of someone who you want to fire you away from relegation woes.
In terms of aerial duels won, Joselu also outperforms him (7.8 to 6.4 per game) despite his self-styled reputation as a battering ram.
And looking at chances created for team-mates (0.97 per 90) and successful take ons completion (33.33 per cent), Deeney also falls short of the Newcastle duo.
This may be because he’s clearly not in a situation at Watford where he’s happy anymore, and a move to Newcastle would be a fresh start with a manager who’s brought him to the club and wants him.
Yet, his fall off is noticeable – he was directly involved in 20 goals back in 2015/16, while he’s at just three at the halfway stage this season.
He will be 30 in the summer and is by no means a long-term solution. Indeed, he may already be on his way down from his peak.
If they can find the Deeney from two seasons ago, he would be a very good buy for Newcastle. But when you sign strikers out of form there’s always a risk that the blip is permanent rather than temporary – see Fernando Torres at Chelsea.
He wouldn't come cheap with Watford rejecting an offer of £25million from Leicester City in the summer of 2016. Signing a striker for that much money will only happen should Amanda Staveley's protracted takeover finally happen.
The Magpies will have to work out if it's worth taking that risk.