Perhaps you can forgive Newcastle United for their limp showing against Manchester City. After all, this is a team that, earlier in the season, looked destined for relegation before the Saudi takeover and arrival of new manager Eddie Howe saw their fortunes turn around. Since then, Newcastle have been one of the best teams in the Premier League, and the fact they didn’t perform in the crunch title-race-defining clash against City is a sign that they have room to take their foot off the gas slightly.
When Steve Bruce was still at the helm before Halloween, the odds on the Premier League were firmly tipping Newcastle to go down, and their fans will be thoroughly relieved the new ownership and managerial change has seen them escape the clutches of relegation. Indeed, the work Howe has done is remarkable given the dire straits the team found themselves in when he took over.
Of course, much of this success is owed to Newcastle’s improved position financially. The controversy surrounding their takeover is well documented, but the simple fact that the club were able to spend a large amount of money in the January transfer window means that there is a small caveat to their impressive recovery. Few teams who find themselves in relegation strife can afford to splash the cash to save their season.
The team still needed managing though, and Howe has done a fine job in making Newcastle far more difficult to beat, and something of a goal threat too. Defensively, Fabian Schär has been a player reborn under Howe, helping Newcastle’s defence become considerably more reliable. In attacking areas, new signing Bruno Guimarães has been a breath of fresh air, providing the kind of flair that Newcastle fans will be hoping to see more of as the club grows in stature in the coming years.
For Howe personally, his efforts at St. James’ Park have justified the decision to bring him to the club. It’s no secret that the former Bournemouth boss was not the owners’ first choice, having flirted with the likes of Unai Emery and Frank Lampard before ultimately plumping for Howe. But the Englishman has proved that he can coach a defence, and also instil an elite-level winning mentality. In 2022, only Liverpool and Manchester City have earned more points in the Premier League than Newcastle.
This season was always going to be about steadying the ship, and if Newcastle go on to secure a top-half finish, Howe will have a constructed a solid platform from which the club can build for the future. As concerning as some of the ethical issues surrounding the ownership are, it’s still an exciting time to be a Newcastle fan from a footballing perspective, and their supporters will be rubbing their hands with anticipation ahead of the summer transfer window.
Howe has been a calm and focused presence throughout Newcastle’s rise up the table over the last few months. He looks like a man clear in his vision and expectations, determined to prove his doubters wrong and take the Magpies to the next level on the pitch. He’s gone above and beyond what was expected of him so far, and a 5-0 loss to champions-in-waiting Manchester City will not stop Howe’s Newcastle juggernaut from marching on.
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