Newcastle United already know who their next lethal goal-scoring striker could be

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Newcastle United may need more firepower if they are to realise their ambitions this season - but have they already watched one possible target?

Eddie Howe is facing up to a number of major decisions as he looks to build on what has already been a promising season for Newcastle United.

Despite seeing his squad decimated by an ever-growing list of injuries, the Magpies manager has worked wonders to help his side move into the top six of the Premier League table following their weekend win over Arsenal and has taken them into the quarter-final of the Carabao Cup with an impressive win at Manchester United.

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Newcastle United Eddie Howe will be looking to strengthen his squad in the January transfer window Newcastle United Eddie Howe will be looking to strengthen his squad in the January transfer window
Newcastle United Eddie Howe will be looking to strengthen his squad in the January transfer window | AFP via Getty Images

There is a need for Howe to strengthen his ranks in January and there are a number of priorities for the former Bournemouth manager. Sandro Tonali’s lengthy suspension for breaching betting regulations means a midfielder is on United’s radar and there has been talk a centre-back could be under consideration.

A forward could also be an option as Howe continues to juggle between Callum Wilson and Alexander Isak, taking their form, fitness and injuries into consideration during what has already been a busy season. So could a new forward be an option in January? And could that potential new addition come in the form of a striker monitored by the Magpies in the recent past?

Who is Lois Openda?

At just 23-years-old, Belgian striker Openda has made a fine start to life with Bundesliga club RB Leipzig following a summer move from French side Lens. After starting his career in his home country with Club Brugge and enjoying an impressive loan stint at Vitesse Arnhem, Openda scored 21 goals in 42 games during a one-season stay at Lens and has continued to find form in Germany.

Linked with several clubs around Europe throughout the summer, Openda is believed to have been watched be Magpies recruitment staff over the last year and was suggested as a possible United target prior to his move to Leipzig.

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What has been said about Openda said about his future targets?

The Belgian international is enjoying a fruitful opening to his time in Germany - but he has already suggested he wants to become as prolific as another familiar name in the Bundesliga. As it stands, Openda is third in the top goalscorers list, six goals adrift of Stuttgart’s Sehrou Guirassy and a further goal behind league’s current top scorer, Bayern Munich and England star Harry Kane - and it is the latter that has already proven to be an inspiration to the Leipzig forward.

Speaking ahead of his side’s meeting with Bayern earlier this season, Openda said: “Harry Kane is one of the best players in the world. He’s better than me. But that’s what drives me: I want to be at his level one day. I can do a lot more and that’s what I’m working on every day to get the best out of myself.”

What else has been said about Openda?

Despite struggling with something of a goal drought midway through his final season with Lens last year, Openda continued to receive the backing of manager Franck Haisse before returning to form to become the first player to score 15 league goals in a season for Les Sang et Or in over three decades.

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Speaking of his star forward, Haisse said: "Loïs is mentally very strong. But what counts is putting in the hard work, keeping your feet on the ground, you have to be humble as a player so that even when you reach your objectives, you set new ones! Whatever happens you need to believe in yourself and in your work and he does that very well!”

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How does his form compare to Alexander Isak and Callum Wilson?

One of the main challenges to have faced Eddie Howe so far this season is how to ensure both of his forward options remain hungry and are satisfied with the game-time they receive during a hectic season. Somewhat fortunately, or unfortunately as some may say, injuries have played a part and helped force Howe’s hand to a certain extent.

Despite battling with a niggling hamstring injury for the majority of the season, England striker Wilson has seven goals in 13 appearances in all competitions, the same amount of goals scored by Isak, although the Swede has reached that target in 12 games.

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Openda’s current form has his two goals ahead of both Magpies stars, with his nine goals coming in 16 appearances across the Bundesliga, Champions League, DFB Pokal (German Cup) and DFL-Supercup. That means all three players have a similar goals-per-game ratio for the campaign, with Openda’s 1.78 goals-per-game sat inbetween Isak’s 1.71 and Wilson’s 1.86.

Would Openda’s style of play fit into Eddie Howe’s side?

It is difficult to assess just which type of forward Howe prefers in his Magpies style. It would be safe to label Wilson as an out-and-out striker, a penalty box predator and someone who thrives on causing havoc inside the 18-yard-box. Isak is more than capable of playing a similar role - but he is also able to drop deeper and link up play, as well as drifting out to the wing to create opportunities for team-mates.

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Working on a relatively small set of statistics from the current season provided by the fbref.com website, Openda has bettered both Magpies stars when it comes to creating goalscoring chances for his team-mates, with his average of 2.92 per game sitting above Isak’s 2.74 and Wilson’s 1.49. The Belgian frontman has also provided more crosses than either United forward but sits behind both Magpies in average passes attempted per game.

Using the fashionable xG rating, Openda’s expected goals average fall below Isak and Wilson (0.55 per game compared to 0.98 and 1.09 respectively) and falls marginally behind the duo in successful take-ons but does come out on top on touches in his own defensive third and the middle third of the pitch.

How much would it cost to sign Openda?

This is where it gets tricky! Eddie Howe has consistently referenced Newcastle’s ongoing battle with Financial Fair Play regulations over the last 18 months as the Magpies hierarchy continue to rebuild the club’s on and off-field fortunes after the haphazard final years of Mike Ashley’s ownership where the club became akin to a ghost ship.

Although the Magpies are not at their FFP limit as it stands, there is little room for manouvre - but that could change with player sales, futher commercial deals and progress in a number of competitions, including the highly lucrative Champions League.

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It should not be forgotten Openda only joined RB Leipzig in a reported £33m move earlier this summer and the fact he signed a five-year deal gives the Bundesliga club the upper hand in any potential negotiations. Given his fine start to life in Germany, it would be safe to assume Leipzig would look to at very least double their money for the forward, who was reportedly watched by United during his time in Lens.

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