It wasn’t much of a secret that Rafa Benítez wanted a new striker in the summer at Newcastle United.

He went into the season with just Dwight Gayle and Aleksandar Mitrović, and reported Magpies targets included then  Villarreal striker Cédric Bakambu and Lucas Pérez, before he left Arsenal for a return to Deportivo La Coruña.

Speaking ahead of their first game of the campaign, a match which they lost 2-0, the Spanish coach said it was clear to anyone what Newcastle needed after their promotion.

“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 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.”

He did admit though that money may be a problem, with Mike Ashley noticeably tightening the purse strings this summer.

“It’s very simple. If you’re asking me which players you want, I can tell you four or five players in the top sides,” he added.

“We cannot sign these players. Trying to be realistic, sometimes you go to the market and you have a target.

“If you cannot get this for different reasons … we are where we are.”

It was clear that Benítez was being frustrated in his attempts to bring in a top-quality forward, and they don’t come cheap.

A low-cost option

Alexandre Lacazette’s move to Arsenal could cost up to £52.6million, while Álvaro Morata and Romelu Lukaku moved to Chelsea and Manchester United for upwards of that fee too.

Even in the Championship, strikers cost big fees, with Middlesbrough signing Martin Braithwaite for £9million and Britt Assombalonga for £15million.

Jordan Rhodes' permanent move to Sheffield Wednesday cost around £10million, while Fulham signed Rui Fonte for £8million – all very big fees for players in England’s second tier.

By contrast, Newcastle’s big summer arrival up front cost just £5million, in the form of Joselu, who arrived from Stoke City.

Not prolific

Beyond two very impressive seasons for Real Madrid Castilla – the European champions' B side – which saw him get 40 league goals in 72 games in the Spanish third division, he hasn’t been anywhere near prolific.

Joselu’s best goalscoring season was at Eintracht Frankfurt in 2013/14 where he scored nine goals in 24 Bundesliga games, working out at 14 in 33 in all competitions.

After his move to Stoke in 2015, his one season with the Potters before being shipped out on loan saw him get four goals in 22 Premier League games – four in 27 in all competitions.

When there are strikers going for £15million in the second division, if a team is buying one for the top-flight for just £5million, they can’t expect to be getting a prolific one, and that is the case with Joselu.

Already Newcastle are noticing his lack of a clinical finish.

He has four goals from his 21 league appearances (1472 minutes) so far this season, but he could have easily had more, having missed six ‘big chances' this season.

Joselu vs Brighton

Against Brighton & Hove Albion, in Newcastle’s 1-0 loss, the Spaniard missed a glorious chance (above).

While it may have been on his weaker foot, a Premier League striker really should hit the target from so close, rather than dragging it wide as the 27-year-old did.

With 32 shots so far this season, he is joint-tenth in terms of most shots of any Premier League player, so there’s no doubt he finds himself in the right positions.

But, with just four Premier League goals, there are 37 players who’ve scored more than him in England’s top flight in 2017/18.

Yet, one of his old team-mates at Stoke insists he is a great finisher.

“I’ve got to say, he was probably one of the best finishers at Stoke. Honestly, frightening,” Steve Sidwell said of Joselu to BBC 5Live.

“If you called up any of the lads from Stoke now, they’d honestly say he was unreal. Left foot, right foot, any kinds of finish in the air.

“What’s encouraging is, having gone to Newcastle, he is getting in the positions to do it and it’s only a matter of time. If it does click, he will go into double figures.

“At times when he was at Stoke, he was a lone striker doing jobs he maybe didn’t want to do, but I think he’s learned now and that mentality has kicked in.

“He knows he’s got to put that graft in now but, as far as finishing is concerned, he could do every type of finish – in the box, outside the box, volley, left foot, right foot.

“Honestly, he was superb.”

Newcastle fans will have seen nothing so far to convince them that Sidwell is right in terms of his finishing, and scoring in training is very different to scoring in a competitive game.

At the moment, Newcastle have just 22 goals from 24 games, something they’ll need to improve on to have a successful season.

Benítez is undoubtedly a very good manager and they should have a good year with him in charge this season, but if the board want to back him in January, they need to get someone who has proven he knows where the back of the net is in a top division, to help this Newcastle side could go to the next level.


Premier League