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Over in Austria – These five lessons learnt by Newcastle United

3 weeks ago
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The Newcastle United pre-season got firmly underway with a trip to scenic Austria, where the players were tested physically in order to get into shape for the upcoming season.

The Magpies faced 1860 Munich and Mainz 05, giving fans an insight into what to expect, as well as seeing some new faces for the first time.

Aside from the results, a comprehensive 3-0 win over 1860 Munich and an unfortunate 1-0 loss to Mainz 05, which ultimately mean nothing, we learnt a lot about the current squad.

Below are five things I came to learn / realise from watching the two Newcastle United friendlies in Austria.

The need for depth

Now this one didn’t have to be made apparent by these friendlies, as it was obvious before coming into this season. However, it was made a more pressing issue when our star players aren’t playing and the back-ups are called into action.

The key area where this is clear is on the wings, as without Allan Saint-Maximin there was little to no chance creation coming from the wide areas, instead having to be focused down the middle through Bruno Guimaraes, trying to bring the ball forward to create space and chances for the front three.

Now the play being via Bruno is not an issue due to his oozing quality, but the best teams don’t rely on one man and when he is forced to move on the ball to another player, our chances of scoring severely decrease. So, the cry for reinforcements were made louder by fans online after seeing how much we struggled without the French starlet.

I’m sure Dan Ashworth and the team will be working to fix this problem, but moves will need to be made sooner rather than later, to eradicate any fear of rushing a deal late in the window and making mistakes by potentially bringing in the wrong man for the wrong fee. Something we have steered away from currently, which I admire.

Elliot Anderson may have a role to play this season

Elliot Anderson has been our bright light in the Newcastle United academy for some years now and this was made clear when he went out on loan for the second half of the 2021/22 season to Joey Barton’s Bristol Rovers. Where he excelled, picking up seven goals and six assists in just 20 games, becoming a fan favourite, especially after his sensational last-minute goal to clinch promotion to League One.

However, I don’t think any of us could have anticipated how much the 19 year old has developed as a footballer, as he stood out in these two games. Especially in his substitute appearance against Mainz where he ran the show and looked like our only real threat, drawing fouls and beating his man time and time again.

Many fans would love to see him involved this year in case we don’t make the acquisitions desired but, in the event we do add quality to the front line, I think the best option for Anderson would be a Championship loan move for his development. He is certainly a man to look to for the future of Newcastle United though and undoubtedly an exciting prospect.

Healthy headaches

Even though there is a need for depth in certain areas as aforementioned, there are areas where Eddie Howe will have his work cut out for who starts that all important first game of the season against Nottingham Forest on the 6th of August.

The area where the decision is an especially tough one for me, is in central defence.

With Sven Botman joining for £35 million as another left footed centre back, it seemed as though Dan Burn’s position was in jeopardy, as Botman has already showed his brilliance with his composure and commanding attributes. However, Howe has mentioned that he would not be against using two left footers at the back, giving Burn a chance to maintain his position.

On the other hand, Fabian Schar has simply got better and better under Eddie Howe and it’s hard to see his position being surrendered, with him possessing the crucial quality of playing out from the back, which Howe clearly admires with his style of play.

All played good minutes in Austria and proved themselves to be more than capable to fill those spots. However, with Botman seemingly destined to fill on spot in the team, there’s only room for one other, a decision Howe must make and one that I do not envy.

Change of approach

This one may just be down to the quality of the opposition we faced in Austria, but it seemed to me, as if Newcastle have adopted a style of play which sees us have more of the ball.

In both fixtures the Magpies dominated the ball, being patient and waiting for the right opportunity to pounce. Now this wasn’t by any means a perfect representation of the tactic as it’s still early days under Howe’s management but the signs at the moment are promising.

It was an approach that seemed to benefit the likes of Jonjo Shelvey and Bruno Guimaraes who love to receive the ball off the back four to turn and face the rest of the field to find a pass to get Newcastle moving up the pitch.

This therefore gives freedom to the other two in midfield in this system, whether they be Joelinton, Joe Willock, Sean Longstaff, or even Bruno when he’s played further up, when Shelvey plays the holding role.

It’s certainly a more attractive and pleasing way to play football that the fans have welcomed after years of defensive and negative football, and hopefully with further acquisitions the style of play will only continue to improve, as we (hopefully) climb up the league table.

It is only pre-season

I think the biggest lesson that all Newcastle fans should learn, is the fact that this is only pre-season and results do not matter at all.

To some extent the performances do, as they transcribe into results, but with this being the third week of pre-season I do not think the results are important.

There are still a few weeks and a number of further friendlies to go before the much anticipated start of the Premier League season, there is sure to be more movement within the squad with outgoings and incomings, alongside adjustments made tactically to ensure we are at our best.

There is certainly no need to panic at the moment but if we fail to score and lose every other pre-season game 5-0…I’d give you permission to stress that maybe this season won’t turn out being what we want it to be.

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