The Entertainers 2.0
Newcastle United is a club that’s synonymous with its strikers – Alan Shearer, Andy Cole, Peter Beardsley, Malcolm Macdonald and Jackie Milburn have all had the Gallowgate up on their feet over the years.
However, in recent seasons St. James’ Park has gone goal-shy – and no more so than in the opening matches of the current campaign.
The Magpies’ ten expected goals (xG) is the second-lowest total in the division, with only Norwich City (9.3) accruing less.
Under Steve Bruce, Newcastle had been guilty of setting up to not lose matches, rather than to try and win them. But under Howe, Geordies can expect to see the former Cherries’ manager’s signature brand of attacking football.
Speaking at his first press conference, the 43-year-old said: “I’d love to emulate some of their incredible attacking football.
“My Bournemouth teams always tried to be on the front foot and I’m not going to come here and be a different manager.
“It’ll take gradual steps but my training will certainly be very different and, ultimately, I want to see the type of football that entertains.
“I think that’s what Newcastle fans want too.”
Howe may want to provide attacking football, but it’s at the other end of the pitch where alarm bells have been ringing.
Having conceded 24 goals so far this season, more than their expected goals against (xGA) of 20.4, Newcastle have the second-worst defence in the division — again, only marginally better than fellow strugglers Norwich (26).
A lack of discipline has also cost them, after giving away five penalties and accumulating the most yellow cards (32) this term.
A quick fix would be to re-introduce Swiss defender Fabian Schar.
The 6ft 2in centre-back has featured more for his country this season (five appearances) than he has for his club (two appearances), playing a key role in their qualification for the 2022 World Cup last weekend.
For whatever reason, Bruce preferred other options to the former Hoffenheim man – even trying him in midfield at times – but his returning presence would surely bring some confidence back to a shaky defensive unit.
Keeping It Close
Before Newcastle can flex their newly found financial muscles in the January transfer window, there are nine fixtures to negotiate.
If the Magpies cannot get above that dotted line before then, they simply have to stay within touching distance – but some tough tests await before the chequebook is brought out.
Both Manchester clubs will be on Tyneside around Christmas, while there are also tough trips to Arsenal and Liverpool that need negotiating.
The games against Norwich, Burnley – and this Saturday’s match-up with Brentford – will be the clearest indications of whether Howe is making progress.