Four reasons why Newcastle United should not panic

Eddie Howe, Manager of Newcastle United, applauds fans following the Premier League match between Manchester City and Newcastle United at Etihad Stadium – Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

At first glance, Newcastle United are struggling. Three successive defeats for the first time under Eddie Howe and just three goals scored in eight Premier League games are all the evidence you need to show that they have lost momentum.

But, crucially, they are not playing badly and did not do so against Manchester City. In fact, there are good reasons to believe this is nothing more than a temporary dip in form rather than a long-term malaise.

Poor finishing

It started against Leeds in December and it has become a persistent gripe in 2023. Against Manchester City, Newcastle created more than enough chances to have troubled Manchester City. Anthony Gordon, Sean Longstaff, Callum Wilson and Joelinton were all guilty of failing to finish the chances they would have expected to take at the Etihad Stadium.

In fact, the only game where Newcastle have struggled in the final third was in the Carabao Cup final defeat by Manchester United. The team’s xG (expected goals) data is roughly the same now as it was before Christmas (1.50 compared to 1.67) Eventually the team will start scoring again.

“I’d much rather we are creating all these chances and not scoring them, than not creating them at all,” said Dan Burn, searching for positives. “If you look at the first half of the season, we were probably taking 90 percent of the chances we created. I’m not particularly worried to be honest.

“We put in three really good performances against Liverpool, Manchester United and City and lost all three. Between the boxes we have been really good, the way we have kept the ball. Not many teams will do what we did to City.”

Strongest bench of the season

When Howe sent on his substitutes at the Etihad Stadium he was able to turn to Allan Saint-Maximin, Alexander Isak and Joe Willock. Three players who all have a case to be starting games rather than watching from the bench. It is the first time this season that they have had so many difficult selection decisions for Howe.

Allan Saint-Maximin of Newcastle United holds the ball whilst under pressure Rodri of Manchester City from during the Premier League match between Manchester City and Newcastle - Four reasons why Newcastle should not panic - Stu Forster /Getty Images

Allan Saint-Maximin of Newcastle United holds the ball whilst under pressure Rodri of Manchester City from during the Premier League match between Manchester City and Newcastle – Four reasons why Newcastle should not panic – Stu Forster /Getty Images

Newcastle do not have the same quality of squad as the so-called Big Six, but they are largely injury free for the first time this season, which means there is now competition for places in attacking areas and midfield. Newcastle enjoyed their best spell of the game when the three substitutes came at the weekend too.

Midfield is still operating as well as ever

In Bruno Guimaraes and Joelinton, Newcastle have two midfield players capable of holding their own against any opponent, as they did once again against City. With Willock fit again, Howe should be able to pick his first choice midfield trio for the first time since August when they play Wolves next weekend.

It is at the top end of the pitch and in defense that Newcastle have lost their way – or as Howe called it, in both boxes.

“They’ve been three really interesting games (the three defeats against Liverpool, Manchester United and Manchester City),” said Howe.

“Our overall performance in all three has been very good. They’ve been high-level games, and we’ve gone toe-to-toe with all of those teams. Now, we’ve come out beaten in all three, but on the general performance, that’s probably a harsh reflection. The City game was a similar pattern. I thought we were competitive and we had our chances, but we didn’t take them. City took theirs.”

Encouragingly, Newcastle have not been outplayed by anyone during this disappointing run of results.

Good old fashioned luck

It is the most unpredictable but also the most powerful of variables in all sports. Newcastle had luck on their side for months. Teams missed chances, deflections off their defenders went wide, marginal offside calls went in their favor. Howe is the sort of manager who will insist teams make their own luck, but there is also no denying that Newcastle are just on one of those runs where the small things go against them.

Phil Foden’s shot would probably have been saved by Nick Pope, but it was diverted in off Sven Botman, taking it in the opposite direction to where the City player was trying to put.

Against Manchester United, Marcus Rashford’s goal was similar, deflecting off the shin of Botman and looping over the head of Loris Karius.

These are the sort of things that have not been going Newcastle’s way. Like all teams on a poor run, they need their luck to change more than anything.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *