The stunning bargain transfer raid that could be Newcastle United's smartest signing this summer

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Newcastle United have been linked with a deal for a proven Premier League defender this summer - but will he improve their squad?

Newcastle United are among many teams in the Premier League who are looking for defensive cover this summer, and according to a slew of reports in the English media they may have found their man already – Fulham’s Tosin Adarabioyo, who looks set to leave Craven Cottage on a free transfer. But how will the towering centre-half fit in at St. James’ Park?

The 26-year-old has reportedly rejected the offer of a new deal with his current club and will apparently be left out of Marco Silva’s squad for the last few games of the season as he prepares to run his deal down – and according to several outlets including The Daily Mail, he is most likely to sign for Newcastle.

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On paper, it looks like a good tactical fit. Howe likes centre-halves who are as comfortable pushing up and pressing opposing players in midfield areas as they are haring back to shut down counter-attacks, and Adarabioyo has the athleticism and skill set to do both.

He’s more than confident stepping up to win the ball and has the quality of timing his tackles well, doesn’t panic with the ball at his feet when he wins it, and perhaps most importantly for a defender who’s asked to push up regularly, he can has good long-range vertical passing, allowing him to help spring counter-attacks with regularity.

And he’s got both the pace to get back quickly and the positioning and game-reading skills to make telling contributions when things don’t go well up the pitch – in the 2020/21 season, when Fulham were relegated and spent a lot of time under the cosh, he made more clearances than any other player in the Premier League, and he makes a pretty healthy number even now in a more successful side.

He’s also a rangy 6’5” with a big leap on him, which makes him one of the best aerial defenders in the top flight. Good on the ground, good in the air, good coming forward and good dropping back, with plenty of experience and few obvious weaknesses – it seems like the perfect signing, especially given that there’s no money involved beyond wages and signing bonus.

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And he shouldn’t have too many problems settling in at St. James’. Looking at his heat and touch maps, the way he’s playing at Fulham overlaps almost precisely with the way that Sven Botman and Fabian Schär do for Newcastle. There shouldn’t be much adaption required.

The only real question mark, then, is whether he’s good enough to elevate Newcastle and help them to continue their efforts to compete at the next level. He’s fast, but not lightning quick. Strong, but his lanky frame doesn’t allow him the same focused leverage as some slightly shorter defenders. A good direct passer, but not accurate enough over short distances. Confident enough on the ball, but not technically gifted enough to beat the counter-press with regularity.

In other words, he’s proven himself to be a good Premier League defender but not yet a great one. There’s an argument that signing Adarabioyo would be a continuation in terms of quality, not a step up, and that Newcastle could be more ambitious – and they may yet, if reports that they are hoping to sign Sporting’s Ousmane Diomande are accurate.

But while signing the Manchester City academy graduate may not represent a giant leap forward in terms of raw quality in the squad, he still offers a better passing threat than any of Newcastle’s current centre-backs, completes more tackles than the likes of Schär or Jamaal Lascelles, and offers extra height and aerial power in both boxes. If they were spending £40m on him, it might raise eyebrows. If they’re aren’t spending a penny, then they’re getting a player whose raw numbers and playing style can go toe-to-toe with any of the defenders on the books right now. And unlike some of the centre-halves Howe can call upon, he even has two intact ACLs. Sounds like a deal worth making to us.

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