How Can Newcastle United Recover From Their Recent Premier League Defeats?

Published on 4 September 2023 at 20:00

Newcastle United enter September's international break off the back of three consecutive Premier League defeats, which seemed unfathomable after their opening day rout of Aston Villa. With the UEFA Champions League games against AC Milan, PSG and Borussia Dortmund fast approaching, can Eddie Howe and the Magpies turn things around fast enough to prevent a further decline in form and results?

It's a testament to how far Newcastle United have come since that transformative takeover night in October 2021 that there's such audible frustration and discontent in the faithful fanbase after the losses to Pep Guardiola's Man City, Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool and Roberto De Zerbi's Brighton, rather than the 'Please don't get battered too heavily' mentality that existed during Steve Bruce's tempestuous tenure. 


But it's perhaps the manner of these three loses that has stung particularly hard: dominated at the Etihad by a City side without Kevin De Bruyne and Jones Stones (excluding an exceptional defensive performance by Sven Botman on Erling Haaland), dealt a late sucker punch brace courtesy of Darwin Nunez at St James' Park, and looking limp and lifeless on the South Coast just this past weekend.


Some perhaps unjust questions have begun to be asked of some of the squad's more dependable names, including last season's star player Bruno Guimaraes, Nick Pope and Kieran Trippier. This time last season, Eddie Howe's side managed until February before suffering their 3rd league defeat: now just one week into September and passing this same milestone, what can Newcastle United look to do to get themselves back on the path to success, particularly at such an important point of their season?


Many have been quick to identify the absence of a defensively-minded midfielder in Sean Longstaff in their more creative, attacking midfield. Relegated to the bench following Sandro Tonali's arrival from AC Milan, the greatest benefit Sean Longstaff brought to the team was his ability to the 'dirty work' or 'graft' that freed up Guimaraes, Joelinton and Joe Willock to offer their services further up the pitch, whilst providing some help to Botman and Fabian Schar. Saturday's loss to Brighton was defined by how simply Joao Pedro and co cut apart the Newcastle midfield and stormed towards the defence with ease. No one will envy Eddie Howe in deciding which of his three current starters might need to be dropped to restore some balance to the team.


Read more: Is Newcastle's Location Affecting Its Appeal In The Transfer Market?


There's an aura of predictability surrounding Newcastle United right now that wasn't visibly present until roughly the 60th minute against Manchester City. Last season, no one expected Newcastle to be as high-pressing and attacking as they wound up being, and nor did Aston Villa on the 5-1 battering on the opening day of this season, with Howe's decision to bring on Callum Wilson and Harvey Barnes as fresh legs against the far forward, tired Villa defence allowing for further decimation. 


Inadvertently, Howe and Newcastle had revealed their game plan, and their opposition anchored up and minimised its effectiveness. Howe rarely opts for a unique XI every week or rotates between 36 formation like Mikel Arteta claims to do, so some fresh ideas and new names brought into the fray could restore that sense of uncertainty teams have when preparing to face the North East outfit. 


And in one example that few will want to admit, expectations have drastically been raised this season compared to last: the PIF project has accelerated faster than few could have predicted, and now fans, players, neutrals and senior figures alike may have become a little too accustomed to it. Barring a select few performances by Manchester City, no team and its players can execute a game plan to perfection, but even the rare average or poor performance from some Newcastle starlets has been likened to some of the most dour, depressing moments of the Mike Ashley era: the primary example being scores of Newcastle fans bemoaning the performances of Miguel Almiron, who finished only behind Wilson as one of the club's top scorers last campaign.


Fans may need to realise that not even two years post takeover, the club has done incredibly well to be punching where it is right now, for a quick comparison, it wasn't until the 2nd full season under CFG ownership that Man City truly began to exhibit signs of being the footballing institution that we know them to be today, and they had only qualified for the Europa League the season prior rather than the Champions League...


It would be an exaggeration to say that the post international break game against Brentford is 'make or break' for Newcastle's season, but for everyone involved at Newcastle United: whether that be the casual fan at home to the executives in the offices, a statement win could be the catalyst for the season to truly kick off after having faced four of last season's top seven teams...


By Jaspar Shepherdson

(@jasparshepmedia on Instagram and Twitter)


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