How Will Newcastle United Fare This Season?
Newcastle United have been a sleeping giant within English football. A club with a rich history and reputation, The Magpies have been unable to reach the heights of their glory days in recent times, suffering from relegations and multiple battles to avoid it, characterised by an imperious period of Mike Ashley rule. Advertising Sports Direct across St James Park and sacking managers from Chris Hughton to Rafa Benitez at unfavourable times, Ashley became a hated figure among players and fans alike.
In October 2021, a takeover that began in 2019 was finally completed. Ashley sold the club to a consortium comprising Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, Staveley’s PCP Capital Partners and the Rueben brother’s RB Sports and Media. Although valid questions about Saudi Arabia’s human rights record and the ethics of having such an ownership within the Premier League arised, the deal was sanctioned for £300 million and the consortium took control of the club.
Since then, the new owners of Newcastle United have taken steps on and off the pitch to escalate the growth of the club and to restore the status it once had within world football. Underwhelming and unpopular manager Steve Bruce was almost immediately sacked after the takeover was finalised, with former Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe brought in as his successor. As well as the manager, the new owners have also reshaped staff within the top level of the club, breaking away from the chaotic mess that Mike Ashley had made.
The well-established Dan Ashworth, who gained plaudits for his time at Brighton, was brought in as Newcastle’s new Sporting Director in June, with his vision to turn Newcastle into an “elite sporting institution.” Darren Eales meanwhile has been appointed the new CEO of Newcastle United, following his incredible success with developing Serie A club Atlanta’s brand and image. Eddie Howe has also recently committed his long term future to the club by signing a new contract.
The appointments of a new Sporting Director and CEO are long term investments for the future. They will not have an immediate impact on the club, and the progress that they are able to make will be gradual, but their aim is to ultimately restore Newcastle’s reputation on the global football stage. It is not likely that these appointments will immediately impact Newcastle’s ability to climb up the league table. Nevertheless, this shows that there is a clear vision among the owners within Newcastle Football Club; something that the fans have not experienced for over two decades.
It is Eddie Howe’s long term appointment that will largely improve Newcastle in the short term. When appointed to the role, Eddie Howe set his team up within a 4-3-3, and he has largely stuck to this formation since. Under Steve Bruce, Newcastle were a team that could barely string three passes together, but Howe has slowly built a system that allows his players to gain more possession and play attacking minded football. Before Howe arrived, Newcastle were achieving on average 1.04xG per match and 11.25 shots per match. Thanks to Howe’s impressive attacking tweaks, Newcastle under Howe last season averaged 1.40xG per match and had 13.15 shots per match.
They also increased their possession per match, achieving an average of 41.6 per cent compared to 37.8 percent pre-Howe. Overall, Newcastle looked like a team reborn as soon as Howe took over. Much more confidence flowed through the team, with Howe encouraging his players to move the ball quicker and to be braver when going forward. If the Premier League had started when Howe took over as manager, Newcastle would have finished 6th in the table, above Manchester United. In reality, The Magpies achieved an 11th place finish, which is extremely impressive considering they were in the relegation zone before the appointment of their new manager.
Of course, Newcastle United have also had an opportunity to flex their muscles within the transfer market, although not as much as they possibly would have liked due to Financial Fair Play (FFP) restrictions and a lack of sponsorship deals. The club was also to spend in both the January and currently in this summer’s transfer window, significantly improving the quality within the squad.
The signing of Kieran Trippier from Atletico Madrid was an impressive swoop for The Magpies during the January transfer window. Signing a player from a club who were the incumbent La Liga champions was a statement of intent from the club, and a sign that they were going to make significant strides within the transfer market. In just five starts for the club, Trippier was able to score two goals, as well as showcasing the defensive side of his game, averaging 2.8 tackles and 5.2 winning duels per game. The English fullback picked up an injury during February when Newcastle’s form was soaring. This was an unfortunate blow for The Magpies, but a now fully fit Kieran Trippier will no doubt play an important role in Newcastle’s 22/23 season.
The Magpies also signed young talent Bruno Guimarães from French side Lyon in January. The Brazilian midfielder had a big impact on Newcastle, providing them with an alternative goal threat. In just 11 starts, Guimaraes scored 5 goals, boasting a 50% shot accuracy. Bruno also played the most progressive passes out of any player in Europe’s top 5 leagues since he began playing for The Magpies. Guimaraes is providing creativity and attacking talent which Newcastle have lacked for so long within the middle of the pack. To have such an impact on a team after joining a club in January is rare, but Guimaraes managed to heavily impress and gain consistent starts in Eddie Howe’s side. The talented midfielder will no doubt be looking to build on his performances this season and help Newcastle climb further up the table.
As well as Guimaraes, Chris Wood was signed from Burnley to add to Howe’s attacking roster. Given Wood has experience in the Premier League, this was a smart move from Howe. “He is a very dangerous attacking threat, has a physicality and character that I really like, and he has vast experience in the Premier League. He will be a great fit for us” stated Eddie Howe after securing the transfer of the striker for around £25 million. Although Wood ended up only notching 2 goals for Newcastle during the 21/22 season, he was a consistent attacking threat for Newcastle and was a crucial signing for them in their time of need. With Callum Wilson now returning to full fitness, Chris Wood is a brilliant off-the-bench option for Eddie Howe.
Howe has seen his ability to manoeuvre within the summer transfer market slightly limited due to FFP restrictions. Nevertheless, they have still been able to secure a notable plethora of signings. Young defender Sven Botman from Lille, who has shown considerable promise and has been wanted by many top clubs, was brought to Newcastle for £30 million. At just 22 years old, Botman is a sign of Newcastle looking to the future and building a foundation for success. Matt Targett, after being on loan at Newcastle from Aston Villa since January, agreed to sign permanently with The Magpies, and goalkeeper Nick Pope was also brought in after Burnley were relegated.
With the signings of Pope, Targett, Botman and Trippier, Howe has succeeded in rebuilding nearly all of Newcastle’s defence. Under Bruce, Newcastle were notorious for being defensively vulnerable. After significantly better defensive performances from the side since Howe joined the club, he will be hoping that his new look defence will be able to build on this form. At the time of writing, Newcastle have played 2 games and they have conceded no goals.
Joelinton, meanwhile, isn’t a new signing, but has almost gained that status since the appointment of Eddie Howe. Brought to the club in 2019, Joelinton played in attack as striker and found it very hard to find the back of the net, with his attacking input being very disappointing despite his tireless work rate.
Under Steve Bruce, he looked to be a transfer that was ultimately characterised by failure, with his £40 million price tag looming over him. Since Howe has arrived however, Joelinton has found a place within the middle of the pack for Newcastle. In midfield, Joelinton is able to use his physicality to press opponents and win back possession. The Brazilian has also demonstrated his ability to carry the ball into the pitch and set Newcastle away on attack. After his impressive performances last season, he will be looking to build on his new-found success as a no.8 for Newcastle this season.
Newcastle are still in the very early stages of their rise to the top of English football, but with a tactically smart manager like Eddie Howe, the short-term future still looks extremely promising for The Toon Army. There is a great atmosphere around and within the club as of right now, which would have been unthinkable even a year ago. Howe has a new look defence and his preference for attacking football will no doubt St James Park in many home games this season, while also delivering upsets on the road.