According to The Sun, Newcastle United are interested in signing Ismaila Sarr this summer.
Last year, shockwaves were sent through the Premier League when the Magpies were acquired by the Saudi Arabian Private Investment Fund (PIF). The new owners were given a net worth of £320bn in 2020, which gives the north-east outfit major spending power. They proved as much during the January transfer window, when they splurged £91.89m on new arrivals.
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That outlay is likely to be replicated or even surpassed during the summer. One of the Toon’s rumoured targets is Sarr, who is reportedly set to leave Vicarage Road even if the Hornets stay in the Premier League. He is said to be available for a fee of £35m, which is pocket change for the PIF.
But what could that transfer mean on the pitch for Newcastle? Here, we take a look at the potential consequences…
4-3-3 perfection for Howe
Since arriving at St James’ Park in November, Eddie Howe has mainly deployed a 4-3-3 formation.
It could be argued the right flank is something of a problem. Both Ryan Fraser and Miguel Almiron, who have been used in that position, are more comfortable elsewhere, while Jacob Murphy, although a natural on the right, is not exactly the quality needed to challenge for Premier League titles, which is amongst the new ownership’s lofty aims.
Sarr, however, has the ability to provide real danger. Despite Watford currently sitting 18th in the Premier League table, the Senegal international has found the back of the net five times in just 16 outings – had he been available more often, Watford’s situation may look far more positive.
His performances have even attracted interest from Liverpool, and with Mohamed Salah at his disposal in Sarr’s position, Jurgen Klopp knows a quality right-winger when he sees one. The £24.3m-rated ace could provide the perfect balance for the forward line if he were to make the switch.
Chris Wood was one of five new arrivals in January as Howe searched for an alternative option to Callum Wilson. However, despite costing £25m, Wood has so far struggled to provide any real threat in front of goal. In 10 matches, he has found the back of the net just once, with others instead shouldering the goalscoring burden.
The 30-year-old is not the most mobile striker, meaning he relies on quality service into the box. This is demonstrated by his aerial ability – during the 2018/19 and 2019/20 seasons, no one scored more headers than Wood’s 11 combined. However, Newcastle have not played to his strengths – Saint-Maximin, for example, averages just 0.3 crosses per game.
That would unlikely improve with Sarr on the right. He has averaged just 0.5 crosses per game, hardly what Wood thrives on. Spending such a large fee on the New Zealand international seemed questionable in January, and if Newcastle do bring in Sarr, they will surely need to sign another forward who complements him.
With pace in abundance, goal threat and the ability to beat a man – he has averaged 1.8 successful dribbles per game in the Premier League this season – Sarr has plenty to offer. Given his age and performances, the reported fee is not extortionate, either, and will give Newcastle plenty of Financial Fair Play (FFP) room to strengthen elsewhere.
It promises to be an intriguing summer for Howe and co as they look to build a squad capable of competing with the division’s top sides. Sarr could be just one of a number of fresh faces on Tyneside in the coming months.