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Eddie Howe proved right with previous squad comments by what he saw at Hillsborough

1 year ago
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Eddie Howe watched on as his Newcastle team lost at Hillsborough.

Maybe best to rephrase that slightly…

Eddie Howe watched on as his much changed Newcastle team lost at Hillsborough.

Eight changes to the team who put in that excellent goalless draw performance on Tuesday against the current best performing football side in England.

The Sheffield Wednesday 2 Newcastle 1 match didn’t really upset me that much.

I was disappointed of course…but not exactly surprised with how this played out.

The striking thing personally for me, was that it took me back six days to my most recent article on The Mag, that was entitled ‘This has now laid the Newcastle United squad bare.’

In that article, I talked about how Eddie Howe had a massive job on, with the Newcastle United squad he inherited back in November 2021.

The neglect and incompetence under Mike Ashley and Steve Bruce, leaving a Newcastle United squad that had some real extremes.

When I hear and read what many Newcastle supporters have to say, I am often amazed at the naivety of so many of them, when it comes to their opinion on the true level / value of many NUFC players.

For example, look at the players who Eddie Howe has moved on so far…Hayden, Woodman, Hendrick, Clark, Gayle, Fernandez. They have all moved to Championship level clubs (Fernandez moved to La Liga minnows Elche, who are a Championship level club). The thing is, I’m sure many Newcastle fans would have been amazed that none of these Newcastle first team squad players headed to another Premier League club.

If we’re honest, the likes of Darlow, Lascelles, Ritchie, Lewis, Gillespie, Karius, Dummett, Krafth, Fraser and Murphy would all be looking at Championship level clubs (or similar level abroad). The same applies to Elliot Anderson at this moment in time, but of course, in the future he does look to have the potential to develop into a Premier League first choice player.

This brings me to the current transfer window and what the NUFC Head Coach had to say nine days ago, before it opened…

Eddie Howe speaking about the January 2023 transfer window – 30 December 2022:

“With an unlimited budget it’s maybe possible to improve the team, but with FFP looming it’s almost impossible.

“But can we improve the squad, that’s the question?

“What we don’t want is to handcuff ourselves for future windows.”

As the main man says, it would be ‘almost impossible’ to bring in a new signing this month, who would be an improvement on the best 11 Newcastle United can put out on the pitch at this present time.

However, as Eddie also says, bringing in a signing or two (or more) that would improve the squad, is potentially a very different matter.

From my analysis / opinion above, I would say that these are the Premier League level Newcastle United players:

Pope, Trippier, Schar, Botman, Burn, Bruno, Longstaff, Willock, Almiron, Joelinton, Wood, ASM, Wilson, Isak, Dubravka, Shelvey, Targett.

I make that 17, then 18 if we include Elliot Anderson as well. Although surely a strong argument that he needs to go out on loan in the second half of the season to get regular first team football. If we stick to the 17, you have Shelvey and Targett set to be missing for months through injury. Whilst of the 15 that then remain, Isak only came back today from four months out, whilst Dubravka came back early from his Man Utd loan.

Plus, I think that the reality is that for a number of others in this group of 15, the likes of Wood, Longstaff, Willock and Almiron, can only really look like good standard Premier League players when they have the best NUFC players in and around them on the pitch.

No doubt plenty of you would say Wood is in the wrong group here BUT I disagree. Yes it was a really bad miss tonight at Hillsborough but Anderson’s was even worse (should have burst the net from five yards with just the keeper to beat) and Isak’s header from five yards out arguably as big a sitter as Wood’s. My point is, overall, Wood has shown he is a Premier League striker in a Newcastle shirt (and previously with Burnley), though not a first choice one if you are a top half club or aiming for even better than that. Another PL club, indeed at least a few, would like to sign him.

However, reality is that so many who started against Sheff Wed, would go straight to the Championship.

That is the harsh reality.

Whilst on the one hand we have the star quality of players such as Pope, Trippier, Schar, Botman, Bruno, Joelinton, Isak and Wilson.

On the other hand you have Manquillo, Lascelles, Lewis, Anderson, Murphy and Ritchie, who would all be heading to Championship level clubs if moving out of St James’ Park this month.

These are the extremes, once you get past the best 11 or so players Newcastle United currently have, you then see very very few who are of that middle ground, you basically are going straight down to those who aren’t even in reality Premier League level (at least these days they are not), never mind capable of performing at top four / six level on a regular basis.

As Eddie Howe indicated ahead of the transfer window opening, he desperately needs to improve the quality of his squad below first eleven level.

Personally, I think we are now set to see some wheeling and dealing, Eddie Howe moving out maybe a trio or so of squad players and improving with three new additions in this window.

A busy January ahead, on and off the pitch.

Stats from BBC Sport:

Sheffield Wednesday 2 Newcastle 1 – Saturday 7 January 6pm

Goals:

Newcastle United:

Bruno 69

Sheffield Wednesday:

Windass 52, 65

Possession was Sheff Wed 25% Newcastle 75%

Total shots were Sheff Wed 9 Newcastle 22

Shots on target were Sheff Wed 4 Newcastle 7

Corners were Sheff Wed 1 Newcastle 11

Referee: Michael Salisbury

Attendance: 25,884 (4,500 Newcastle)

Newcastle United:

Dubravka, Manquillo, Lascelles, Botman, Lewis (Trippier 69), Anderson (Willock 60), Longstaff (Bruno 60), Joelinton, Murphy (Almiron 60), Ritchie, Isak (Wood 45)

Unused Subs:

Darlow, Dummett, Fraser, Burn,

(3 Positives and 3 Negatives to take from Sheffield Wednesday 2 Newcastle 1 – Read HERE)

(Sheffield Wednesday 2 Newcastle 1 – Match ratings and comments on all the NUFC players – Read HERE)

(Sheffield Wednesday 2 Newcastle 1 – The instant NUFC fan / writer reaction – Read HERE)

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