Eddie Howe had a massive job on, with the Newcastle United squad he inherited back in November 2021.
Not a case of all the players unable to perform in the Premier League but certainly work to be done.
The neglect and incompetence under Mike Ashley and Steve Bruce, leaving a Newcastle United squad that had some real extremes.
A massive factor having been the shocking decision(s) to give loads of existing NUFC players new contracts, many of them ridiculously long as well, rather than move most of them on and bring in better (Premier League) quality.
Eddie Howe of course also landed mid-season with an instant relegation fight on his hands, a fight that looked doomed, as his first job was having to get this inherited Newcastle United squad properly fit! Before he could even begin to make major inroads towards safety.
As for the players making up the Newcastle United squad, the new Head Coach has had to work at pace, four new permanent signings in the January 2022 window, then four again in the summer (2022).
So, bringing things up to date, these are the eleven who started against Leeds on New Year’s Eve:
Pope, Trippier, Schar, Botman, Burn, Bruno, Longstaff, Willock, Almiron, Joelinton, Wood
Then these are the nine who were on the bench:
Darlow, Lascelles, Ritchie, Lewis, Manquillo, Anderson, Murphy, ASM, Wilson
When I hear and read what many Newcastle supporters have to say, I am often amazed at the naivety of so many of them, when it comes to their opinion on the true level / value of many NUFC players.
For example, look at the players who Eddie Howe has moved on so far…Hayden, Woodman, Hendrick, Clark, Gayle, Fernandez. They have all moved to Championship level clubs (Fernandez moved to La Liga minnows Elche, who are a Championship level club). The thing is, I’m sure many Newcastle fans would have been amazed that none of these Newcastle first team squad players headed to another Premier League club.
Looking back at the 20 NUFC matchday squad players against Leeds, I would say that the first 11 of Pope, Trippier, Schar, Botman, Burn, Bruno, Longstaff, Willock, Almiron, Joelinton and Wood are all Premier League level players. If Eddie Howe, for whatever reason, decided to sell any of them, there would be Premier League clubs willing to take them for sure.
However, out of the nine subs, I would only put ASM and Wilson in the same category.
If we’re honest, the likes of Darlow, Lascelles, Ritchie, Lewis, Manquillo and Murphy would all be looking at Championship level clubs. That isn’t to say that these players haven’t been decent for Newcastle United, it is just reality as things stand. If Eddie Howe moved them on, they wouldn’t be heading off to be a regular starter at another Premier League club.
The same applies to Elliot Anderson at this moment in time, but of course, in time he does look to have the potential to develop into a Premier League first choice player.
Looking at the other Newcastle United players who weren’t amongst the 20 on duty yesterday, it is a very similar story.
If leaving Newcastle United would go to a Premier League level club – Isak, Dubravka, Shelvey, Targett
If leaving Newcastle United wouldn’t go to a Premier League level club – Gillespie, Karius, Dummett, Krafth, Fraser
This then brings me to what Eddie Howe had to say on Friday about this new transfer window…
Eddie Howe speaking about the January 2023 transfer window – 30 December 2022:
“With an unlimited budget it’s maybe possible to improve the team, but with FFP looming it’s almost impossible.
“But can we improve the squad, that’s the question?
“What we don’t want is to handcuff ourselves for future windows.”
As the main man says, it would be ‘almost impossible’ to bring in a new signing this month, who would be an improvement on the best 11 Newcastle United can put out on the pitch at this present time.
However, as Eddie also says, bringing in a signing or two that would improve the squad, is potentially a very different matter.
From my analysis / opinion above, I would say that these are the Premier League level Newcastle United players:
Pope, Trippier, Schar, Botman, Burn, Bruno, Longstaff, Willock, Almiron, Joelinton, Wood, ASM, Wilson, Isak, Dubravka, Shelvey, Targett.
I make that 17, then 18 if we include Elliot Anderson as well. Although surely a strong argument that he needs to go out on loan in the second half of the season to get regular first team football.
If we stick to the 17, you have Shelvey and Targett set to be missing for months through injury, whilst we still await Isak’s return. Then Dubravka has just been recalled from his loan today and is surely now going to be sold, as I can’t see it suiting any of the respective parties for him to hang around at NUFC now.
This takes us back down to the 11 who started yesterday plus ASM and Wilson. It doesn’t mean that others (Darlow, Lascelles, Lewis, Manquillo etc) can’t play some part for the rest of the season BUT it is a huge drop in quality when coming in for our first choice players.
My money would be on Eddie Howe selling Dubravka and also trying to move on at least a couple of others, to then help make space and finance (transfer fee(s) and saved wages) at least a couple of better squad alternatives, before we get to February.
I have to laugh when some fans point to the likes of Sean Longstaff and Chris Wood as players they would like to move on. They are real solid Premier League players who when they play, work so hard and with not a little ability to help the better quality players make the team tick.
Chris Wood has started 146 Premier League matches and scored 53 goals, significantly better than a goal every three PL starts. He isn’t as good as Wilson or Isak BUT he is still a Premier Level player. As is the case with Sean Longstaff.
The brutal truth on the other hand is that many others in our first team squad are not PL level and it would be a massive blow if only a couple more injuries meant a couple of these were playing week in week out.
First team strengthening isn’t essential this month BUT squad strengthening is.
Eddie Howe will get the job done again.
Stats from BBC Sports:
Newcastle 0 Leeds 0 – Saturday 31 December 3pm
(Half-time stats in brackets)
possession what Leeds 41% (49%) Newcastle 59% (51%)
Total shots were Leeds 8 (6) Newcastle 16 (9)
Shots on target were Leeds 1 (0) Newcastle 5 (3)
corners were Leeds 3 (3) Newcastle 9 (4)
Referee: Simon Hooper
Pope, Trippier, Schar, Botman, Burn, Bruno, Longstaff, Willock (Saint-Maximin 64), Almiron (Murphy 84), Joelinton, Wood (Wilson 64)
Darlow, Lascelles, Ritchie, Lewis, Manquillo, Anderson
(Newcastle 0 Leeds 0 – Match ratings and comments on all the NUFC players – Read HERE)
(Match Report – Of course, this is ridiculous to grumble in the scheme of things…Read HERE)
(Jesse Marsch hails best ever performance as Leeds cling on for draw at Newcastle – Read HERE)
(BBC Sport comments from ‘neutrals’ – Very interesting on Newcastle United after Leeds match – Read HERE)
(Eddie Howe on new injury blow, January transfer window and goalless draw with Leeds – Read HERE)
(Newcastle 0 Leeds 0 – The instant NUFC fan / writer reaction – Read HERE)
(Newcastle 0 Leeds 0 – You can’t win them all! – Read HERE)
(Big blow as Kieran Trippier ruled out of Arsenal match after Newcastle 0 Leeds 0 – Read HERE)