Newcastle visited Manchester to face City and they came back home having suffered another defeat, 1-0 this time, at the Etihad. However, it wasn’t all negative.
If Eddie Howe wanted a barometer of how far they’ve come, but how far they’ve yet to go to reach the very top level, this was it.
Manchester City won the treble last season and were coming off the back of lifting yet another trophy midweek in the shape of the Super Cup. They are an extraordinary football team, perhaps the best in world football.
The fact that Newcastle supporters were going into the game with thoughts of taking all three points shows how far this side has come in such a short space of time.
Now, this is not the usual match report. We won’t delve into the details of the game.
Phil Foden had another one of his magical performances against Newcastle, who will be glad to see the back of the England international. He was superb, and a constant threat that Howe’s men just couldn’t handle. Constantly finding pockets of space and causing havoc. Many would argue Foden was the difference.
Despite the confidence going into the game, Newcastle struggled to impose themselves on the match with their usual intensity. They looked a bit off-pace, especially in midfield. Bruno and Tonali struggled to win the battle, with Man City throwing extra bodies in there in a bid to thwart Newcastle’s press. It worked and completely disrupted their play.
Foden helped create the only goal of the game by finding that tiny pocket of space before Julian Alvarez struck an exquisite ball into the top corner. Nick Pope managed to get fingertips to it but it wasn’t enough to save his side from going down.
Newcastle looked a lot sharper in the second half. They were quicker to the ball and wanted to get forward more, they looked more and more like themselves.
Anthony Gordon could count himself extremely lucky to stay on the pitch with a very card-happy referee. Howe sensibly replaced the former Everton man with Harvey Barnes, who promptly went into the book a few minutes later.
Miguel Almiron toiled away with little impact on the game. Against the best sides, his weakness of being too one-footed is always highlighted, and it showed up once more on Saturday.
There was more of an attacking threat in the second half but not enough to lay a glow on the treble winners.
Supporters took to social media after the game to share their disappointment. Some were fair in their assessment of the game, while others... Well, let’s just say I am terrified of their reaction to a Champions League defeat.
It’s great having high expectations and being confident in your team, but what will inevitably muddy the waters are unrealistic expectations. The select few who have these expectations will have their opinions picked up by the media and they’ll run with it. If and when Newcastle go on a bad run, and these supporters start to turn, it’ll start a snowball of toxicity that’s simply not needed at the club.
Newcastle will face Liverpool at St James’ Park on Sunday, in another tough game that will test their top-four credentials—win and Newcastle will be well on their way to having another great season. Perhaps the visit of Liverpool will be a more realistic test of how far Newcastle have come since last season.
Newcastle are in for a long season taking part in four competitions, there will be stumbles along the way but everyone must stick together to take this team on another amazing season.