I have been the first man to kill Newcastle after the lads won just one game of the first seven played. The truth is that after that season-opening match against newly-promoted Nott Forest things had not really gone that well for the Magpies. Not just in terms of results, but actual play too.
Some VAR decisions here and there hurt the team and the ultimate outcomes, yes, but you just can’t rely on lucky breaks weekly.
As good as Eddie Howe has been for the team and the way it plays, it cannot be argued that the squad was looking mediocre and empty of ideas to break low blocks, teams sitting deep, and all other types of defensive tactics deployed against Newcastle’s now seemingly better(at least in theory) side.
Turns out, Newcastle was not that good of a team after all. Or was it?
Judging by the demolition taking place in London last Saturday one could very well make a case for Howe tweaks and Newcastle as a legitimate top-seven team—a contender to play European football next season, that’d be.
Put in the broadest possible context, sitting seventh in the Premier League entering MD9 and with eight games in the books is quite the achievement. In this weekend of anniversary celebrations upon Tyne, it makes sense to look back in time to understand where Newcastle as a club is at and where it was just 12 months ago.
Eight games into the 2021/22 season and one into the Saudi Era—a defeat against Tottenham the weekend after the takeover was made official—Newcastle were sitting 19th with three points by virtue of drawing three games.
It took the Magpies two more months to finally win a game. Newcastle defeated Burnley on Dec. 4, 2021. This season, Newcastle put their second W of the campaign in the results column on the first day of October. Quite different developments, if you ask me.
Things can always get better and Newcastle don’t have any laurels to sleep on yet, so they better keep working hard and earning as much praise as they can before they can look back and say “give us a break, we just won this or that cup!”
The game against Fulham last weekend marked a change. Or so the Geordie faithful hopes. Howe heavily rotated the team—perhaps most pressed by nagging injuries than anything else—as all of Targett, Joelinton, and even Ryan Fraser (already a backup) hit the pine. Yes, some of those did so because of not being fully or even partially available, but there was the feeling of Howe calling for his players’ attention and sending a message: no more screwups allowed, or you know what’s coming.
And of course, the lads delivered the fancy goods.
This weekend some first-team options are expected to be back, Allan Saint-Maximin should start, and so should Joelinton in the middle of the park and Matt Targett at the back.
The opponent, Brentford playing away from home, shouldn’t pose the biggest challenge for the Magpies to overcome. Newcastle don’t need to score four goals weekly; one would suffice as long as the back keeps putting on good outings and the defensive phase is as strong as it’s been through this day.
At the end of the day, this is about building, slowly but surely, toward a complete season of nice-enough results that see the team jump a few positions from last year’s 10th place to a top-seven slot in which European nations start to feel the heat of Newcastle.
The Magpies are about to bring the flames and they’re barely kicking off what will become a legitimate football reign.
FotMob.com predictions at the upcoming Starting XIs from the Magpies and the Bees are in, so let’s go through what could be coming from Newcastle’s Eddie Howe.
- Not Available: Isak (hamstring), Shelvey (thigh), Darlow (ankle), Krafth (knee), Ritchie (calf)
- Doubtful: None
- In case you missed it earlier this week, Nick Pope was named Newcastle’s Player of the Month for the second time this season on back-to-back months because, well, there have only been two of those. If we’re honest, Pope should be named signing of the season (at a whole Premier League level, not just Newcastle) when next summer comes. And it’s only been eight games. You get an idea of how magnificent this guy has been.
- Eddie Howe decided to gamble a bit on defense—to the extent starting Sven Botman can be considered gambling—and it truly paid off for Newcastle. It is true that the defenders had little work to do against Fulham because the Cottagers barely touched the ball past the halfway line, but still.
- Matt Targett should be available and back in the starting XI. Burn can do it over there, but if you loaned MT and then proceeded to sign him that’s for something, ain’t it? He is a top-tier left-back and he will earn the call today after playing less than 10 minutes off the bench against Fulham.
- Kyle Walker got injured this week with Manchester City so England international and new locked-into-Qatar-World-Cup-squad Kieran Trippier will start at the right of Newcastle’s defensive line. Not a lot of alternatives at the position for Howe with Emil Krafth out for the season, so it’d be interesting to see if the brass ends up looking for reinforcements come January’s transfer window.
- So much respect for Mitrovic last weekend that Howe deployed a goddam tank of a defensive line with Botman, Schar, and Burn all featuring from the start. Only for, of course, Mitro to leave the game not even 40 minutes into the affair.
- Ivan Toney on the other side today calls for precaution once more. It’s all about experience here because Ivan Toney is coming in hot, so I’m assuming Botman goes to the bench making room for Dan Burn in the middle to partner with Fabian Schar leaving the left flank open for the expected return of Targett.
- Good news coming from yesterday’s pre-match press conference with Howe saying that Joelinton “has trained this week and he’s fine for tomorrow.” We can pencil his name in the starting XI then, even more considering he comes rested after missing the last week of Premier League action and more time before that as he wasn’t called up for any international games.
- Safe to assume Bruno will start this one next to Joelinton. No words needed.
- Joe Willock is coming off his best game donning the Black & White stripes. Sean Longstaff had an extraordinary goal-scoring outing against Fulham scoring after nearly breaking his ankle. It’s going to be hard for Howe to pick one of the two, and it’s much harder for me to make any sort of sound and safe prediction here. FotMob is choosing Willock over Longstaff. The Guardian is picking both Willock and Longstaff with Joelinton on the bench for a start. I’m siding with the former and putting Willock in my lineup. Gotta keep the run going.
- I blamed Miggy for underperforming before the game against Fulham. Then, of course, Mr. Miguel Almirón stepped up to the plate and shut my mouth. It’s Almirón all day, every day, on the right.
- Key of the match and biggest question mark floating above Howe’s head and lineup: is Allan Saint-Maximin making his comeback, once and for all, after missing the last three games and not playing since the matchup against Wolves on Aug. 28? Judging by Howe’s words yesterday, I have to assume the French will be part of the XI: “He’s trained well this week and we’re pleased with him. He’s making good progress. There’s a chance he could be in the squad tomorrow.” Howe, my friend, you’re not fooling me. He’s playing, just say it.
- Isak and Wood are banged-up and either not even making it to the bench or in a precarious condition, so no one other than Callum Wilson will claim the starting spot here. Also, there is the extraordinarily well-written narrative just one month before World Cup squads are announced pitting Wilson and Toney against each other to see who gets Harry Kane’s backup position as part of the Three Lions contingent flying to Qatar. I personally don’t think there is any doubt about it if both players arrive on Nov. 15 fully fit and available for Gareth Southgate to pick one of them. Toney is still young, though, so he will get another chance in 2026.
CHN Predicted Lineup
DEF Trippier - Schar - Burn - Targett
MID Willock - Bruno - Joelinton
WNG Almirón - Saint-Maximin
Newcastle vs. Brentford
- Date: Saturday, October 8th
- Kick-off: 15:00 BST / 10:00 EST / 8:00 PST
- Location: St James’ Park, London (England)
- TV: Talksport 2 Radio UK (UK), Peacock, UNIVERSO, Telemundo Deportes En Vivo, USA Network, UNIVERSO NOW (USA), fuboTV (Canada)
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Howay the Lads!