Ryan Fraser has signed for Newcastle United, joining his former colleague Callum Wilson at St James’ Park. Steve Bruce has had to strengthen his squad on a limited budget and the Scottish international is a shrewd pick-up. Last season was disappointing for the left winger, with off field issues detracting from his focus on the pitch. He will be hoping that he can have a fresh start closer to home in the North of England.
This isn’t going to be a progressive summer of recruitment at St James’ Park. That has become evident over the past few weeks, with the budget a lot lower than expected, due to Covid-19. It is a case of trying to stick plasters on the squad to nurse it through another season of Premier League football. The ambitions of the current regime are to remain a Premier League outfit while Mike Ashley tries to sell the club. This is unlikely to be a successful strategy long-term and Newcastle will be one of the favourites for relegation once again. Although the last few days have increased optimism on Tyneside with the transfer wheels turning.
That said, supporters will hope that a takeover will happen in the next 12 months and that Steve Bruce can steer them to survival once again to facilitate a sale. The addition of Ryan Fraser is one that will add much needed attacking options to the forward line. Miguel Almiron, Allan Saint-Maximin and Matt Ritchie are all good Premier League players, but there is little else within the squad to compete with them. This does lead to the three players being overworked.
Fraser is able to play on both wings and he has plenty of Premier League experience. Despite his expected high wages, it will be seen as a positive to sign the Scottish international on a free transfer, considering their limited transfer budget. Last season, he was mainly used as a left winger by Bournemouth, but he can also be used on the right.
It will be interesting to see which side he does play on, as Saint-Maximin prefers the left too. Bruce may look to start both, but ask them to switch wings throughout the game. This fluid approach will allow both time on the left and make it difficult for full-backs to settle against either one of them.
Last season, his contribution was underwhelming as Bournemouth were relegated. The biggest criticism of Fraser came for his decision not to agree a temporary extension to feature post lockdown. Due to the Cherries’ perilous position in the league table, supporters were hoping that he would stay to fight. That left a sour taste for supporters and doubts about his mentality may have prevented a move to a bigger club.
Despite a poor season in 2019/20, in which he contributed a goal and four assists, he has shown himself to be a dangerous player in the Premier League. In the previous season, he was one of the standout players operating outside of the top-six with a return of seven goals and 14 assists. During this campaign, he had a goal involvement every 151.1 minutes and was linked with a move to Arsenal as a result.
The decline over the past 12 months was disappointing, but the player will attribute the drop off to his contract situation. Fraser didn’t look happy when he was on the pitch and that once again brings forward doubts about his application.
For Newcastle, this is a risk worth taking as they desperately need attacking reinforcements. Fraser will add a lot of creativity to the forward line and allow Bruce to rotate a little bit more. Saint-Maximin looked like a player that was extremely overworked following lockdown and he will benefit from a rest occasionally.
Due to their approach to the current transfer window, every transfer that Newcastle make will carry risk. Fraser is no different. There have been doubts raised about his quality and mentality over the past 12 months. It speaks volumes that he remained a free agent for as long as he did. This shows that he didn’t receive the interest that he expected, but his loss could be Newcastle’s gain.
If he can return to his production levels of two years ago, this could be a great move by Newcastle. Following a tortuous summer filled with negativity due to the takeover falling through, the additions of Fraser and Wilson should improve the mood around St James’ Park.