After beating Man Utd (2-0) on the first Sunday of April, Newcastle spent an eventful week in London defeating West Ham first (5-1) and Brentford on Saturday (2-1) with those three games making it nine-of-nine points earned.
It was a unique time for the Magpies since Eddie Howe took charge of the team, as the gaffer had never before spent a full week with the lads away from Tyneside preparing for a match, which they did ahead of the clash against the Bees. Can’t complain, though, judging by the result.
Perhaps more incredible is the fact that NUFC will remain on the road, extending their trip to a third consecutive game without gracing SJP. It’s time to visit Birmingham this weekend to face Unai Emery’s Aston Villa (remember the name?) at a lunchtime kick-off.
Of course, that is only happening because of the postponed MD7 due to the death of Queen Elizabeth II last September. As ridiculous as it sounds, though, things were even worse for Newcastle last year when they faced the quartet of Southampton, Chelsea, Everton, and Tottenham on the road in a little over three weeks between Mar. 10th and Apr. 3rd, 2022.
Howe took to the microphones and addressed the most pressing questions by the media on Friday, ahead of the matchup against Aston Villa at Villa Park scheduled for Saturday, April 15th.
This weekend marks the meeting between could-have-been-Newcastle-manager Unai Emery and Eddie Howe, and Aston Villa have been incredibly great under the guidance of the Spanish gaffer since he was appointed last October.
“[Aston Villa’s] form has been strong and consistent so we know we’ll have to be better than we were in the first-half at Brentford if we’re to get a positive result.”
“It’s going to be a tough challenge for us. We’re going to have to get certain parts of our defensive structure right or they’ll give us big problems.”
Emery didn’t get the gig at NUFC but that doesn’t mean he’s a bad manager. Far from it, and Howe very well knows and respects it.
“He’s got a clear philosophy. They very rarely change what they do. Tactically they are interesting and it will be a tough challenge for us.”
“Credit to him for [Aston Villa’s current form]. They’ve got a goalscorer in Ollie Watkins who has done very well this season and scored a lot of goals of late. Their run is a strong one and it’ll be a really tough away game for us.”
Although Villa will pose a serious challenge, the truth is that Newcastle are currently enjoying a magnificent run of form themselves and looking for their fourth consecutive victory away from home, something that has not happened in the Premier League for almost 27 (!!!) years.
“I think there’s a growing belief that we’re getting back to our best form after a difficult period around January when we were a bit frustrated with ourselves.”
“The Wolves win was a big moment for us and we’ve backed that up.”
A recent talking point considering how impressive both players have performed starting games or coming off the pine is the possibility of featuring both Alexander Isak and Callum Wilson together going forward. Howe was asked about that tactical tweak and got things to say about it.
“They’re both pushing each other. Whether they are playing together or alone, their presence is around each other, pushing each other to great things.”
“It’s great to see that we’ve got two strikers in form scoring goals. The team needs it.”
Staying on the squad-depth topic, Howe shared a couple more nuggets.
“It’s a squad game. We’re going to need everybody to contribute, whether they’re starting or not.”
“I can only pick 11 players but I’ve got a very strong squad when everybody is fit.”
“[My] understanding of the squad is very good, and I’ve had no internal issues. Of course, players not playing are disappointed but I have to make the right decisions for the team.”
Joelinton, who has been great for Newcastle all year long but more of late than ever before, received his flowers.
“Joelinton from minute one has been really committed and he’s been incredible in any position we ask him to play.”
“[He’s been] invaluable, I’d say. Players that can play in different positions and play them effectively are worth their weight in gold.”
“To have the ability to change the system last week and to move him into a different role. Use his physicality to help us with Brentford’s aerial play. He was incredible.”
In a rather odd development, Howe introduced Anthony Gordon on the pitch in the second half of Newcastle’s game against Brentford, the youngster sparked a reaction, but he was later subbed off before the final whistle. Gordon was visibly upset with that in-and-out appearance, and Howe discussed it on Friday.
“I’ve got no issue with him at all - he’s trained really well this week.”
“His enthusiasm, aggression and motivation levels are really high.”
“He’s fiercely determined to do well and achieve. It’s one of his strengths and we want to embrace that, we love that about him but in certain moments he needs a cool head as well.”
After missing last weekend’s outing against Brentford with a last-minute injury, Allan Saint-Maximin later revealed that he will be forced to sit on the shelves for a couple of weeks while nursing his woes. The player is recovering in France with a doctor of his choice, which Howe seemingly has no issue with.
““I don’t think it’s a serious injury but he’s away getting treatment at the moment so he’s not with us.”
“Hopefully at some stage next week he’ll be back and be available very soon.”
I’m comfortable with [ASM recovering away from Newcastle] and always have been. I’m a firm believer you don’t have to be in Newcastle to get the best treatment. It’s always about helping the player come back in the best condition.”
“If that means sending him to someone he really likes then that’s fine. We have a staff member with him so we have contact. The work he is doing is good and it’s all about getting him back in a good condition.”
We also got an update on another injured player, Miguel Almiron, that should be back as soon as by the end of the month and (we hope!) perhaps already fit to face Everton on Apr. 27th.
“[Almiron] has done really well. He’s ahead of schedule at the moment so fingers crossed he gets through training and he could be available very soon.”
If you have paid attention to the Magpies games broadcasted on TV or if you’ve attended them, you must have witnessed a very particular leader standing on the touchline: veteran reserve Matt Ritchie. Here’s what Howe had to say about his main man.
“His leadership skills are second to none.”
“I’ve seen a change in him through the years. I managed him as a young player who had a fierce determination to get to the top. Now I’m seeing the other side where he has developed a lot of leadership aspects. His wisdom has been invaluable to us.”
“He’s a top player, we see that every day in training.”
In Villan news, France international midfielder Boubacar Kamara is expected to miss Saturday’s matinee with a bugged ankle. He suffered the injury against Chelsea earlier in April and was forced off the pitch against the Blues, having yet to make his return to a football pitch.
Two other players, Matty Cash (calf) and Philippe Coutinho (hamstring), are expected to stay on the sidelines and sit out. Most worryingly for Unai Emery, established forward Leon Bailey suffered a hamstring injury last Saturday in Aston Villa’s game against Nott Forest and he will also miss the game against the Magpies to kick the weekend off.
- Date: Saturday, April 15th
- Kick-off: 12:30 BST / 7:30 EST
- Location: Villa Park, Birmingham (England)
- Broadcasts: fuboTV (CAN) — UNIVERSO, USA Network, UNIVERSO NOW, nbcsports.com, Telemundo Deportes En Vivo, NBC Sports App (USA) — BT Sport Ultimate, BT Sport 1, BT Sport App, BTSport.com (UK)
For all your international watching needs, check LiveSoccerTV.com.