By Noel Whelan

13th Nov, 2021 | 7:00pm

Howe told to complete 'big priority' January signing after Newcastle source reveal - pundit

Newcastle need to stiffen their rearguard before casting their eyes at “flair players” like Philippe Coutinho in January, according to Noel Whelan.

The former Leeds striker, speaking exclusively to Football Insider, called on decision-makers at St James’ Park to bring some “experience and leadership” into the club.

This site exclusively revealed on Thursday (November 11th) that Newcastle manager Eddie Howe is setting his sights on a triple January swoop to firm up the spine of the team.

A Magpies source has told Football Insider that Howe’s priority is to recruit two centre-backs and a central midfielder proven at the highest level.

This site also understands Newcastle are set to appoint former Chelsea director Michael Emenalo as their director of football after a breakthrough in talks.

The Tyneside club have conceded the second-most goals in the Premier League this season (24) – bettering basement club Norwich’s record by just two goals.

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Whelan insisted Howe will work with Emenalo to draw up plans ahead of a vital January window.

“Before anything happens, and you start looking at players like Coutinho and other flair attackers – they need to get that backline sorted,” he told Football Insider‘s Ewan Kingsbury.

“It’s essential. That’s where the problems have been for a number of seasons now. Defensively, they’ve not been strong or solid enough.

“The biggest priority for Eddie Howe now will be working with the director of football, and it looks like that will be Emenalo, looking at the data, and coming up with a solution to really firm up that spine and make them hard to beat.

“They’ll need experience and some leaders through the door in January – they’re in a relegation battle.”

In other news, pundit slams “childish” Tottenham as Newcastle United set for January transfer block.