Everton are playing Newcastle in a midweek tilt and both teams are in very different positions today than during their recent meetings. Newcastle are thriving right now, doing better and faster than many people believed Eddie Howe was capable of producing with the Magpies; the huge money supply from the new ownership doesn’t hurt things either, of course.
Meanwhile, the Blues are trying to build something consistent, and with so many young players across the match day lineups each week, ups and downs are liable to happen. This team, however, is miles ahead of the side we saw last year, and it will only improve as the likes of Amadou Onana, James Gardner, and Dwight McNeil - to name but a few - all get better acclimated to life on Merseyside with Frank Lampard and company.
RBM: Firstly, Newcastle have made really sizable strides since last we spoke in March of this year - at which time, massive strides were also visible; what is the feeling like around supporters and the club in general at this moment in time?
Everybody is happy around Newcastle these days, and there are obvious reasons for that to be the case. Lots of folks outside of the Tyne and around England and the world over would point to the transfers that the club has signed in the past two windows, but there is much more than that to the ever-improving trend of the club.
From talks about revamping the whole organization and the different staff positions, to a new training ground and even plans to increase St James’ Park capacity; from working with the community, to further boosting the women’s team, everything has felt very organic and legitimate since the takeover. Can’t complain at all!
RBM: What has Eddie Howe been able to do with his tactics and personnel moves since arriving at the club to improve this bunch of Toons to such a degree that the team is currently competing for a European position at this early juncture?
I’m glad you included Eddie so early in the discussion about the team’s improvement on the pitch. It’s funny that we could (or maybe not, who knows if he would have stayed in the post) be talking about Plan A Unai Emery instead of Howe, but here we are.
Eddie Howe has absolutely revitalized the team with his approach to the game. The lads bite the opposition at all levels on the pitch. Just a quick look at some of the defense-to-offense transitions leading up to the goals in the game against Brentford over a week ago tell you everything you need to know.
I’m a skeptical person by nature, so I won’t ever believe anything I see this team do and accomplish even if I’m watching them lifting trophies live on location. I’m still pretty cautious, therefore, and continue to tame my expectations week after week; I just can’t help myself.
RBM: Which players have been instrumental in this team’s reinvention?
Last year was Joelinton’s. He arrived for a massive fee to exclusively bang goals. Turned out he wasn’t that good at that...until Howe arrived and - instead of trying to fix the unfixable and turn lemons into lemonade - he flipped the Joelinton narrative on its head entirely; goodbye “Forward Joelinton,” welcome “Handyman Joelinton.”
This season, 10 games into the Premier League campaign, a lot of players have stepped up their game in a season that has clearly demanded it thanks to the injuries the squad members have sustained to this point. If you want a particular name, take Miguel Almirón. Another super-transfer coming from Atlanta United in the MLS that (let’s be honest) initially flopped at Newcastle but is in phenomenal form to start the year scoring goals like he’s never done before.
RBM: Which areas does this team still need to work on, and where might the winter window lead this team towards?
This is going to be kind of a weird answer, but the truth is that nothing other than some depth/health is what this team needs going forward. There is still some shortage of goals scored by the lads, but - getting back to the root issue - it’s mostly been about the lack of warm bodies to assist those goals and bang them in.
Of course, casual watchers would say that’s borderline insane considering that Newcastle put four and five-goal outings up in back-to-back weeks earlier this month, but those were more outliers than anything else; nothing that the return of Alexander Isak and Allan Saint-Maximin wouldn’t fix (we hope, at least!)
RBM: Do you find that the criticism surrounding the ownership and the origins of their money has subsided with time? Apart from rare pieces in publications, it certainly doesn’t seem that the PiF is receiving the coverage that it initially inspired, and I’m wondering how Magpie supporters go about squaring it all?
I don’t think this will ever go away - not entirely. It is the type of thing that will always remain in the background and pop up from time to time depending on news surrounding the whole Saudi empire in and outside Newcastle.
Just a little comment by Jurgen Klopp this past weekend proved that to be right with Eddie Howe making his way to the headlines after answering him. The folks claiming Klopp’s “xenophobic” agenda were clearly out for everyone to see who he really is, etc... The World Cup is around the corner and taking place in Qatar. Guess which other club is generating the most content these days in relation to all of that, if you would?
At the end of the day you’ll always have the two positions: Defenders and attackers of the PiF model and the actual Kingdom of Saudi Arabia—both on and off the field. The main feeling in Newcastle, I’d say, is one about how the Big Six feels a bit threatened by this new era of Newcastle, and the possibility of their wealthy group turning the six-team mob into a Super Seven.
RBM: How do you expect Newcastle to set up on Wednesday, and which of Newcastle’s players do you think can cause Everton the most problems?
I have discussed today’s probable lineup on our game thread over at Coming Home Newcastle. With all due respect to Everton, this midweek matchup should be considered the easiest game for Newcastle between the match against Manchester United last Sunday and the one against Tottenham this weekend.
In other words: I expect heavy (to the extent Howe uses them) rotation. The injuries have made it slim picks on all three lines of the field so it’s not that Newcastle have many secondary options available with some of them already featuring and starting games on a weekly basis.
Your lads will probably face a softer center-back pairing with the inclusion of former captain Jamaal Lascelles, there is at least a chance youngster Elliot Anderson starts in the middle of the park, and I would also say that at least one winger will be changed from the two starting last Sunday—my guess: Ryan Fraser on the left and Miggy Almirón on the right. Callum Wilson should be the one testing England international and Toffee GK Pickford as the striker tries to force his way into the Three Lions WC squad to be announced in November.
No need to mention the main threat: Bruno.
RBM: Finally, what’s your prediction for Wednesday’s match?
Manchester United dried our attack last weekend although most pundits agree VAR should have awarded Newcastle a penalty while Joelinton also hit the post on back-to-back headers off a Kieran Trippier cross. Again, the Magpies are not going to score five goals every single time they step into a football pitch, but I don’t think this is a game they will let slip through their fingers.
With the Toon Army present at St James’ Park and how the home turf seems to elevate these lads’ game, I’m going to guess a 2-0 victory is ahead.
Our thanks to Antonio for his time.