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Opinion

Eddie Howe after duff info and false starts now has this Newcastle eleven to avoid relegation

2 months ago
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It is now 24 days since Eddie Howe was officially appointed as Newcastle United Head Coach.

The 8 November 2021 seeing him announced as the new man to fill the vacancy left by Steve Bruce’s sacking.

Eddie Howe having taken over a year out of the game after Bournemouth’s relegation in 2020, waiting for the right opportunity.

When taking the NUFC job, this is what Eddie Howe had to say about his reasons for doing so – 8 November 2021:

“It is a great honour to become head coach of a club with the stature and history of Newcastle United. It is a very proud day for me and my family.

“This is a wonderful opportunity, but there is also a lot of work ahead of us and I am eager to get onto the training ground to start working with the players.

“I would like to thank the club’s owners for this opportunity and thank the club’s supporters for the incredible welcome they have already given me.

“I am very excited to begin our journey together.”

Well if Eddie Howe wondered what life might typically be like at Newcastle United after an arguably far less pressurised time in management at Bournemouth and Burnley, these past 24 days have been a crash course in what to expect on what is so often a rollercoaster journey in charge at St James Park.

It is astonishing the number of obstacles that have already been thrown in his path.

A number of players away on international duty and missing from training in his early days with NUFC, a positive test for covid meaning he watched the first match against Bournemouth from his hotel room, self-isolating and unable to train the players in person for the Arsenal game, Karl Darlow badly at fault for two goals against Brentford, three penalty appeals (Schar a 100% one or should have been, Wilson a possible, a defender sliding and handballing a maybe) far too swiftly dealt with by VAR at Arsenal and two poor goals conceded from a defensive point of view, then Ciaran Clark and his moment of madness against Norwich – plus Martin Dubravka could have done better in dealing with the initial threat that led to Pukki’s equaliser.

I am sure that Eddie Howe now has an abundance of knowledge on what he has inherited, a far clearer picture than when he took over.

With this extra knowledge and understanding, I think the new Head Coach is step by step getting closer to his Newcastle United eleven, the team who can, with a bit of luck, still keep NUFC in the Premier League.

Fair to say as well that it appears Eddie Howe has been relying to an extent on people already established at Newcastle United to give him guidance on the squad of players that he’d inherited, at least in these early days. That quality of guidance maybe not the best…

As I say, a bit of a bumpy / rollercoaster journey so far, but with the additional help of suspensions…I think Eddie Howe is now very close to having his strongest Newcastle United team. At least the one that can see us through until mid-January, when new signings may potentially be able to get involved. In reality though, even regardless of new signings, the bulk of the climb to potential safety will see Eddie Howe having to rely on players who were already at the club before he arrived.

This to me is the Newcastle United team that will be now occupying Eddie Howe’s thoughts, with only two places at most in doubt:

Dubravka – A no-brainer.

Manquillo – Best right back at the club, with no competition in the squad.

Fernandez – The best defender at the club.

Schar – Not the greatest of defensive centre-backs but has still shown far better than the other options currently. Plus he is the only centre-back who is good on the ball and can play / bring it out of defence.

Lewis – Totally sidelined since February and yet still showed on Tuesday he is easily the best / only option on the left. Unless maybe if Paul Dummett magically got fit again.

Shelvey – Very surprising but welcome, to see him responding so positively to the closing of the Steve Bruce holiday camp. Looking like a proper midfielder once again and how he must be regretting letting standards fall so low these past couple of years.

Joelinton – We still don’t have a £40m striker BUT we do from nowhere just maybe have an all action £15m-£20m midfielder / attacking support player.

ASM – The odd flash of encouragement but we really do need him to start showing again some of that early season form when scoring or assisting in five of the first six PL games. Obviously still doing enough to be in this NUFC team but Eddie Howe needs far more from him. Once getting the best and strongest Newcastle team together, hopefully along with Howe’s coaching / guidance the French creator can…get creative.

Wilson – Another who maybe we need more from but doing ok, the only credible goalscorer at the club. Total genius from Ashley and Bruce not to address this.

That leaves two spots in the team and interesting to see what Eddie Howe does.

For me, Miguel Almiron is another who, like Joelinton, can thrive now that Howe has replaced Bruce. So hopefully sooner rather than later, we will see him ahead of Ryan Fraser, fingers crossed this Saturday.

The other dilemma for Eddie Howe – Joe Willock has struggled so far this season, not just because he hasn’t scored a goal but his general play. Not through lack of effort but I just don’t see what he contributes most of the time.

I think Sean Longstaff gets a lot of over the top unfair stick and actually has some great stats when it comes to getting around the pitch and closing down / pressuring the opposition. Plus he is one of very few Newcastle players able to shoot from outside the box. Isaac Hayden used to play a bit of football under Rafa but that appears to have been drummed out of him by Bruce and his limitations on the ball, I just don’t see how he fits in Howe’s idea of where he wants to go.

So the Eddie Howe Newcastle United survival team for me, which he is very quickly moving towards:

Dubravka, Manquillo, Fernandez, Schar, Lewis, Shelvey, Longstaff, Almiron, Joelinton, ASM, Wilson

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