What an apt end for a season finale, isn’t it?
Two of the top-five biggest spenders of the English Premier League will go against each other in the nation’s capital of London.
That reads incredibly well until you check the standings only to find one of those sides sitting inside the top four and about to embark on a Champions League adventure... and the other one not quite fighting to avoid relegation but closer to the last-three group than the European places.
If that doesn’t make it obvious how well one club operated and how much money the other wasted during the last 10 months, then allow me to show it to you in a more visual way.
That’s wild, isn’t it?
Newcastle spent a lot of money in two players alone, three if you want to push it all the way to the Sven Botman acquisition for a hefty figure of €37M. Even then, though, Botman’s transfer along with those of Anthony Gordon and Alexander Isak account for “only” €152M.
Chelsea’s desperate bid to land Enzo Fernandez after the World Cup and the winter transfer market alone, quoted at €121M all by itself, is already approaching 80% of the total money spent by NUFC in their three marquee signings. Throw Wesley Fofana in, and you’re already past the €200M mark and way beyond Newcastle’s total expenditure through the last calendar year and two transfer markets. Sheesh.
Speaking of Fofana, and without blaming Chelsea’s ongoing run of poor results entirely on him because that would not be fair, here are Fofana’s games played for his new club after returning from the World Cup.
Yes. That’s 15 games, three wins, two draws, and 10 freaking losses. Chelsea have not won a damn single match in which Fofana has played since they defeated relegation-bound and former Fofana team Leicester City all the way back on March 11th. For those counting at home, that’s more than two months and a half ago. The Blues have not been able to even draw a game for more than 50 days.
Chelsea’s schedule has not been the easiest from that 0-0 against Liverpool on, but that’s no excuse when you’re ponying up transfer fees in the six-hundreds. And those numbers don’t include the arrival of another world-renown talent in Joao Felix, who arrived in London on loan from Atletico Madrid last January. Insane in the brain is what I call it.
What I’m trying to say, is that 1) NUFC were far from the biggest spenders in terms of total money this season, 2) the Magpies were boosted by their imports while still growing the squad organically, and 3) there were not a better combination of players already in the team and arriving from other clubs that put on such an efficient campaign as the one Eddie Howe is about to complete this weekend.
One of the main complaints about the Saudi takeover of Newcastle by other teams’ supporters was the fact that NUFC would just buy whoever they wanted on their way to winning “empty” titles. From Newcastle’s perspective, the issue was more related to approaching the market carefully without overspending and whiffing on top-dollar guys unable to prove their worth on the pitch.
Well, the first statement turned out to be straight false because Newcastle didn’t spend as much as haters felt, instead relying (mostly) on the players they had already in the organization. And the second one is still a concerning one as the Magpies have done so wonderful of a job through three transfer markets that everything feels a bit fluky and unsustainable.
It’d be unreasonable to think that all signings that will be made this summer and in future windows will hit the jackpot such as (nearly) all of the ones arriving in the past winter-summer-winter trio did.
That said, a man can dream.
Howe took to the microphones and addressed the most pressing questions by the media on Friday, a few days before the Magpies go on the road to face Chelsea at Stamford Bridge for the final game of the Premier League season in a match scheduled for Sunday, May 28th.
You can read everything Howe had to say here, as part of our pre-match coverage.
The Guardian prediction at the upcoming Starting XIs from the Magpies and the Blues is in, so let’s go through what could be coming from Newcastle’s Eddie Howe.
- Not Available: Krafth (knee), Lascelles (hamstring), Ritchie (knee), Willock (hamstring), Pope (hand), Manquillo (muscle), Joelinton (knock)
- Doubtful: —
- The squad has been absolutely ravaged and impacted by late-season injuries that will have Eddie Howe thinking about solutions to the team’s problems harder than he’s done ever before.
- We’re talking about Newcastle outright not having available three starters (Nick Pope, Joe Willock, Joelinton) while carrying a bunch of other banged-up players in Sean Longstaff (who returned last weekend), Bruno (secretly but very clearly injured all season), and Dan Burn (tired but stubborn).
- Martin Dubravka will man the goal for the Magpies for the first time since returning from his loan spell at Manchester United. Loris Karius is the alternative, but he lastly appeared in a game when NUFC faced Man Utd in the Carabao Cup final just because he was the only playable goalie in that game. Pope has been so great that he has made us forget about Dubby, but the latter was surely a big reason for Newcastle’s avoiding getting relegated last season, mind you.
- The midfield trio is an interesting conundrum once more. Last weekend Howe made clear that he’s just not going to move on from his preferred 4-3-3 formation no matter how many warm bodies he has available, so count on that system being used on Sunday again and for a final time this season.
- Bruno and Longstaff, assuming both are fit enough and without more games in their schedule, should start at Chelsea. The third player to fill the open slot will once again bring a question mark to the whole equation. This truly feels like Elliot Anderson’s chance to start his second game in a row after popping up in the lineup in a last-minute change after Joelinton was forced to forfeit the matchup against Leicester last weekend.
- Are you a betting man? Don’t bet on the forward trio. Or maybe do, I don’t know. Howe’s tendencies tell me that he will just stick with the Miggy-Isak-Wilson forward line once more. But of course, there are a plethora of options and all of them are equally possible considering this is the last game of the season and that Newcastle are simply playing for nothing.
- Almiron is fantastic, but there is a chance this weekend for Howe to give Anthony Gordon a chance to start—even though it might be a little undeserved. Callum Wilson has been called up by Gareth Southgate to play in the mid-June Euro 2024 qualifiers so you know he’s more than fit and in form to lead the line. Alexander Isak is sublime on the wing but can play as a lone striker too and that would open the winger role for someone like Allan Saint-Maximin. Don’t forget about Jacob Murphy.
- If I had to choose the lineup, and for one last game this season, I’d go with both ASM on the left, Gordon on the right, and Isak up front. I’m not the gaffer, though, so expect Howe to stick with Almiron, Isak, and Wilson in that order.
CHN Predicted Lineup
DEF Trippier - Schar - Botman - Burn
MID Longstaff - Bruno - Anderson
WNG Almiron - Isak
- Date: Sunday, May 28th
- Kick-off: 16:30 BST / 11:30 EST
- Location: Stamford Bridge, London (England)
- Broadcasts: fuboTV (CAN) — nbcsports.com, SiriusXM FC, NBC Sports App, USA Network (USA) — Sky Sports Main Event, Sky Ultra HD, SKY GO Extra, Sky Sports Premier League, TalkSport Radio UK (UK)
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Howay the Lads!