Now for phase two of Newcastle rebuild

Eddie Howe (left) and Kieran Trippier – Eddie Howe’s first money-era team is over: Now for phase two of building Newcastle – Getty Images/Stu Forster

Newcastle United have moved into stage two of their transformation under their Saudi Arabian owners with manager Eddie Howe warning that some players will inevitably be left behind as they look to maintain their upward trajectory.

The 2-0 defeat to Manchester United in last weekend’s Carabao Cup final was a sharp reminder of how much more improvement is neededin terms of squad depth and quality, for Newcastle to challenge for domestic and European honors.

Although co-owner Amanda Staveley responded to the defeat at Wembley by claiming Newcastle will eventually win every trophy available to them, they are a long way from matching those lofty ambitions.

Howe faces some difficult decisions moving forward and he warned every player is playing for their futures ahead of another busy summer of recruitment.

“I probably felt a bit of closure after that [Manchester United] game,” said Howe. “The end of phase one is perhaps a nice way of putting it, I don’t know.

‘People assume improvement is going to continue’

“The next leap [forward] is harder. Time is a very small commodity when you are sitting in my shoes. Lowering expectations and controlling that environment is so important.

“We haven’t created a problem for ourselves, but the speed with which the team has improved has been so quick that people assume that it is simply going to continue. But it’s not that easy.

“To keep moving forward on an upward trajectory, it gets harder and harder. Getting better gets harder the higher you go. So, we have big challenges ahead and we are going to have to be smart in what we do. My work will be judged on that evolution of the team.

“I try and prepare every game, every training session, to the best of my ability, so I ask the players to deliver that to the best of their ability for themselves, for the team, and then for their long-term futures because we are making decisions based on what we are seeing every day. “We want to take a core group of players with us. Some, ultimately, will always fall off from that ride that we are on. Players that end up leaving or not being part of the plans, it’s more from them than from us.

“Sometimes it’s best for the team that players have to leave”

“I’ve done it many times. You lose players you love and you love them as a player and as a person, but sometimes it’s best for the team that they have to leave. That will always be the case in football – not just at our club but many other clubs. It’s part of football. Teams change now very quickly. The cycle and the turnover of players is very high, probably higher than it’s ever been.”

Asked whether Newcastle would be able to spend heavily enough to close the gap, Howe countered that it is also his job to improve the players he has, while admitting that to consistently compete at the top end of the table, he needs the tools to do it.

“I don’t want to say we need to spend a huge fortune to improve, but part of that question is right. We need a bigger squad, we don’t have an abundance of players,” Howe said.

“We have been stretched at times this season like every other Premier League team. We are going to need to do that [expand and improve squad] wisely and smartly. But I need to improve the players I have here too.

“You can achieve extraordinary things if you are committed to that process. If I say, “yes, it’s only down to money”, I might as well not invest the time and energy that I do with my players. “But there is an element of truth in that you need investment to really compete at the elite level. And we’re talking about disturbing the top group of teams, it’s difficult to do that without that investment. So I do feel we have more to go.”

Those fighting for their futures

Miguel Almiron

Only signed a new two-and-a-half-year contract last week, but the Paraguay international could well find he is no longer first choice next season. Howe has signed Anthony Gordon from Everton, who can play in his position. A big offer could even tempt Newcastle to sell.

Sean Longstaff

One of the unsung heroes of Newcastle’s season and has improved dramatically under Howe, but the club were looking for another center midfielder in January and will definitely sign one in the summer.

Dan Burn

Nobody could have asked for more from him playing at left-back, but his most natural position is centre-back and Newcastle need more of an offensive threat from full-back to match what Kieran Trippier offers on the right.

Callum Wilson

It is highly unlikely that Newcastle will sell the England international at the end of the season, but his poor form has extended for months and at the age of 31 he may find he is used as a squad player next term.

Allan Saint-Maximin

For so long Newcastle’s most important attacking player, he has spent a long period of this season out of the starting XI and does not contribute enough in terms of goals and assists. He was Newcastle’s most threatening player against Manchester United but with no end product. Could the Newcastle hierarchy be tempted to sell to help ease Financial Fair Play concerns?

Fabian Schär

One of Newcastle’s longest serving players and another who has improved significantly under Howe, but he makes too many mistakes and is on the wrong side of 30. Another who may find he is eased out of the first team and is back up next season.

Those who Howe could buy or loan out

Jamal Lewis, Matt Ritchie, Karl Darlow, Ryan Fraser, Paul Dummett, Javier Manquillo, Martin Dubravka, Loris Karius.

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