I would be lying if I said I wasn’t hyped against last season’s late game against Manchester City. Don’t blame me. Newcastle was coming off a loss to Liverpool at St James Park (by a slim one-goal difference) and visiting City at the Etihad after winning four straight games prior to that Pool defeat and already having avoided relegation. It was the early portion of May and the late portion of the Premier League season. In other words, you could smell the summer while bathing in PL-permanence waters and maybe defeat City on their home turf to help Liverpool in the two behemoths' race for the title.
Only, you know what happened. Five-O. Sheesh.
It’s time for revenge, and it’s time for Newcastle to avenge that heavy defeat and mauling at their own home with Eddie Howe in charge for good, the team ready for a top-heavy clash, and both squads having yet to concede a goal in the baby Premier League season with just two games in the books.
You would think I’m joking but you better take this very seriously: this Saturday marks the second game of the 2022/23 Premier League campaign and you’d be good if you enjoy the hell out of it because before you can even realize all of this thing will be over. Such is life, folks. And now that Newcastle doesn’t know how to lose—or even draw!—games it all goes away very quickly around SJP these days.
The year couldn’t have started better for Newcastle nor City. The Magpies defeated promoted Forest 2-0 in a very easy kickoff game to the year. The Citizens did the same against West Ham defeating the Londoners by a solid 2-0. Things were a bit different last weekend, though, as United tied with Brighton in a game they should have lost while the Mancunians mauled Bournemouth to the tune of a 4-0 victory. Now, if you peep closer, you’ll find the one key similarity: no goals allowed yet for both City and Newcastle. Yesssssir!
On an all-things-considered, overall basis, it might be true that Bournemouth and West Ham are a bit better than the combination of Brighton and Forest. That said, it’s not that any of those four squads are at the top of the PL order. So let’s call it a balanced set of rivals for both Newcastle and Manchester City so far, with them getting very similar results at least on the defensive front.
If you combine the defensive prowess with the offensive production, though, there is a clear difference between those donning black and white threads and those wearing sky-blue striped kits: goals in favor. Man City has bagged six bangers already to Newcastle’s two. In fact, Newcastle’s two goals are tied for the fewest goals scored among teams in the first nine positions at this point.
Nothing surprising when it comes to the Magpies, though, and that’s why you have heard endless rumors about potential targets to bolster the offense. Newcastle could only score 44 goals in 38 games last season (1.2 per game) compared to City’s 99 goals (2.6). And Newcastle is, concerningly, on the same path when looking at the early season outcomes and spending that to the last games of the 2021/22 campaign: the Geordie Lads have scored just six goals in their last six competitive games. Ugh.
We all know about that, and we all hope Newcastle can unveil Joao Pedro at SJP as soon as next week and before it’s too late to add new players to the squad with the transfer deadline approaching quickly. We can only wait.
As far as Manchester City goes as a team, well, I guess they’re so mainstream that I don’t really need to shed any more light on their current estate of affairs. As I wrote about, they are coming off hitting the opposition’s goal 99 times last season and they have already scored six this year to make it 105 total goals in their last 40 competitive games. That’s absolutely bonkers. That’s also something that shouldn’t lead a team to sign two center forwards—Erling Haaland and Julian Alvarez—but this is City and they have money and they rule the market and... wait a minute does that sound familiar?
Anyway, the list of players arriving and departing from Manchester (the blue part of it, of course) is staggering on both sides of the coin—mind you that, as always, I’m avoiding minor moves/loans in these pictures.
The image right above this paragraph is the one that interests me the most, though, and the one Newcastle’s new owner should be studying and trying to mimic in the future if they want to succeed and break into the Premier League Top Six. Just look at that list. Any team losing all of those players would most probably be looking at a barebones remaining squad. Not City. Not with such a massive return in terms of money refilling their coffers.
Just the top-two sales brought them €100+ million. Bunch up the rest of the players sold for money, and you get something past the €150-million ballpark, and all of a sudden signing Haaland, Alvarez (I know, he was signed last year but arrived this season; still counts for me), and Kalvin Phillips looks like nothing because Manchester City actually profited when looking at the whole list of deals (in and out) combined. Insane.
Crazy, but very real. Of course, it has taken the Citizens years to arrive at their current point of dominance of all things football. When their own takeover took place and they brought Robinho for nearly €45M and Jô for around €25 they could only sell two players for more than five million euros (Rolando Bianchi and Vedran Corluka). Slowly but surely they kept adding talent, selling ancillary/unneeded pieces, rinse, and repeat. It takes time, but Newcastle should eventually get there. Keep calm, folks.
For now, enjoy this recent victory by the Humble Kids over the Rich Boys from a few years ago.
Felt good to pull the W off back then. Would feel good to do so this weekend once more on slightly more leveled terms. Will definitely feel great to do so in the mid-to-late 2020s when Newcastle is already above and better than City.
Only time will tell.
The FotMob.com best guess at the Starting XIs from the Magpies and the Citizens is in, so let’s go through it.
- Not Available: Jonjo Shelvey (thigh)
- Doubtful: Emil Kraft (thigh), Javier Manquillo (groin), Federico Fernandez (calf), Jamal Lewis (calf), Ryan Fraser (back), Matt Targett (hamstring)
- Do I need to really comment on Nick Pope getting the starting nod anymore? Really?
- Dan Burn was extraordinary playing on the left against Brighton as Eddie Howe couldn’t count on Matt Targett after he suffered a small hamstring strain ahead of the match. That said and assuming Targett is back and available—if there is a game you want to have your best squad out on the pitch, that’s this one—then Burn is getting back to manning the middle of the defense along with Fabian Schär. The Swissman has done nothing to lose his starting role to Sven Botman (as good as the new signing was last weekend, mind you) so it makes sense to keep the Burn-Schar pair going.
- Again, assuming Matt Targett is ready to play for some 75+ minutes he will most definitely get the call and I’d be really happy with it, even more considering Allan Saint-Maximin is the man playing right in front of him and the fact that ASM is, well, not the most capable or willing back-tracking outfield player. No discussion on Kieran Trippier’s selection.
- Another weekend, another round of the midfield trio debate is to be held. As is the case with Schar/Burn in the defense getting picked over Botman to handle one of the center-back positions, so is the case with Joe Willock to hold onto the open position in the midfield out of the three available (the other two being handed, obviously, to Bruno and Joelinton). Willock hasn’t been incredible, but he’s done enough to stay where he’s been at and start his third game of the season making it three-for-three. Howe started Sean Longstaff last May in the 5-0 trashing and it definitely didn’t work. Willock is ahead of a huge chance to perform and showcase his talents this weekend, so he better takes advantage of it.
- Chalky trio ahead until reinforcements arrive—if they do at all—with Miggy and ASM on the wings and Callum Wilson as the lone striker. One has to think that Almirón and ASM will have to stay alert at all times and backtrack to help on defense for most of the game (City does this thing called retaining possession for minutes and minutes to no end), which fits the former much more than the latter, but that’s the world Newcastle and Eddie Howe live in, I guess. No need for Wilson to get deep that much but he’ll drop past the midfield line just because the Citizens' center-back players are just going to be sitting there so he’d fall offside if he doesn’t not. Let’s say he’ll just defend or at least help on those duties by default.
When and Where’s flowin’
- Date: Sunday, August 21
- Kick-off: 16:30 BST / 11:30 EST / 08:30 PST
- Location: St James’ Park, Newcastle (England)
- TV: SKY GO Extra, Sky Ultra HD, Sky Sports Premier League, Sky Sports Main Event (UK), SiriusXM FC, Telemundo, USA Network, Telemundo Deportes En Vivo (USA), fuboTV (Canada)
For all your international watching needs, check LiveSoccerTV.com.
How’s it goin’
Coming Home, Crystal Ball: Newcastle 0-3 Manchester City
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Howay the Lads!