Newcastle United manager Rafa Benitez was desperate to add a new striker to his squad during the January transfer window with Joselu and Dwight Gayle struggling to do enough up top in the first-half of the season, and with Aleksandar Mitrovic out of favour at St James’ Park.
The Spaniard had said at the end of 2017 that he wanted all of his transfer business completed by January 20, but by January 31 and with hours until the deadline he still didn’t have the centre-forward that he wanted, despite the fact that goalscoring was proving to be one of his side’s biggest issues in their battle to beat to drop.
The Tyneside outfit had been heavily linked with the likes of Feyenoord’s Nicolai Jorgensen and Liverpool’s Daniel Sturridge in the lead-up to the climax of the window, but they failed to agree a fee with the Eredivisie outfit for the former, while the latter joined relegation rivals West Bromwich Albion instead.
At one stage it looked as though the Magpies may not get anyone, but the club managed to get a deal for Leicester City striker Islam Slimani over the line, with the Algerian coming to St James’ Park on loan until the end of the season.
The club announced at the time that the 29-year-old wouldn’t be available right away as he was suffering from a thigh strain.
Benitez would have been hoping that the striker would play a key role in the run-in as Newcastle looked to avoid making an instant return to the Championship, and while he always looked likely to miss the 1-1 draw against Crystal Palace on February 4, the Spanish boss would have been hoping to have him available for the home clash against Manchester United last month.
That didn’t happen though and one day prior to the huge clash against Bournemouth at the Vitality Stadium on February 24, Benitez announced that the Algerian had suffered an injury setback and would be out for a further fortnight.
That setback means he will definitely be out for the trip to Anfield to face Liverpool on Saturday, and potentially the huge clash against Southampton at St James’ Park the following weekend.
The Tyneside outfit could find themselves in the bottom three by the time they play Jurgen Klopp’s side on Saturday evening if other results go against them – they only lie two points above the drop zone prior to their trip to Merseyside – and they may stay there with the trip to a free-scoring Reds team looking hugely difficult on paper.
The Magpies then host Saints in what is likely to be a huge six-pointer, which Slimani could be absent for, before they have a 21-day break until their next top flight fixture.
They could find themselves in a big predicament if they slip up against the south coast outfit, and they will have just eight matches left to save themselves when Slimani is finally fully fit to make his return – barring any more setbacks – when they host Huddersfield Town at St James’ Park on March 31.
Considering the player was injured when they signed him just hours before the deadline, you have to question whether the 29-year-old was a bit of a panic buy, and if Newcastle made a mistake signing a player that has missed so many matches that have been crucial in the Magpies’ battle against the drop.
Of course, time will tell as to whether that proves to be the case, but the Tyneside outfit may have been wrong to sign Slimani rather than getting another player who was fully fit at the end of January.
The Football FanCast Accy Show
If you’re thinking of putting a coupon together for this weekend, hold fire until you’ve seen the offerings from your pals at the FFC Accy Show!
First up, we have a very tempting Premier League outright win treble that benefits from LeoVegas enhanced odds.
For the more cavalier bettor, we have an EFL fourfold that will pay out handsomely if our pick of results come in!
Check it out and be sure to let us know where you’re placing your money this weekend.