Rather a lot can change in 538 days. That Eddie Howe admitted Newcastle United’s 1-1 draw towards West Ham ‘felt like a defeat’ on Saturday reveals you ways far the Magpies have come because the sides final met at St James’ Park. Newcastle really misplaced the sport that day after the hosts have been thumped 4-2 by the Hammers of their opening fixture of the earlier marketing campaign.
It proved to be one among Steve Bruce’s ultimate dwelling matches in cost on a day the place Freddie Woodman began in objective and Newcastle’s again 5 was made up of Emil Krafth, Federico Fernandez and Ciaran Clark, and transformed wingers in Jacob Murphy and Matt Ritchie. Newcastle twice led that day but, tellingly, conspired to lose the sport, with Callum Wilson even occurring to brutally admit his facet have been ‘not match sufficient’.
Bruce, who was already involved by Newcastle conceding ‘far too many’ targets, spoke about how the black-and-whites ‘did not defend nicely sufficient’ and gave the ball away in ‘low-cost areas’.
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“We did not even give ourselves an opportunity as a result of we have now been completed on the counter-attack chasing the sport and that is what occurs at this stage,” he mentioned. “As soon as we chase it and go away ourselves open and uncovered, then, it turns into very troublesome for us.”
It turned a recurring theme and this was a nightmare Newcastle didn’t get better from underneath Bruce throughout a run the place the black-and-whites let in 19 targets of their opening eight league video games of the season earlier than the previous Manchester United captain was sacked by the brand new house owners. The difficulty was so deep-rooted that it’s value noting that Newcastle even conceded 17 targets in Howe’s opening seven fixtures earlier than they lastly began to tighten up.
That is an space the place the house owners’ funding has made an actual distinction and Newcastle have recruited well. For an estimated £67m – lower than what Chelsea paid for one defender, Wesley Fofana, final summer season – Newcastle’s backline has been remodeled with the additions of goalkeeper Nick Pope and defenders Kieran Trippier, Dan Burn and Sven Botman within the final 12 months.
Coupled with the work of Howe and his workers on the coaching pitch – centre-back Fabian Schar, for one, has seemed reborn – Newcastle have the very best defence within the Premier League. Newcastle have conceded fewer targets (12) than some other staff within the top-flight and likewise stored extra clear sheets (12) than their rivals as a facet who defend from the entrance with gamers who all know their jobs out of possession.
That defensive solidity has been on the coronary heart of Newcastle’s rise to fourth place within the desk and is likely one of the principal the reason why Howe’s staff have solely misplaced one top-flight fixture to this point this season. That’s the reason the style of the objective Newcastle conceded towards West Ham on Saturday got here as a shock.
It’s so uncommon Newcastle let one in nowadays – not to mention a objective as comfortable as Lucas Paqueta’s equaliser after the unmarked West Ham midfielder fired dwelling on the again put up from a nook. Remarkably, it was the primary objective Nick Pope had conceded in nine-and-a-half hours of Premier League motion.
Nonetheless, somewhat than capitulating, or changing into imbalanced in looking for a winner like they did within the corresponding fixture final season, Newcastle nonetheless took one thing from the sport when which may not even have been the case as soon as upon a time. That was a response that inspired Howe on an evening the place Callum Wilson had two large possibilities to win it for the hosts after Paqueta’s equaliser.
“In the event you can’t win, you don’t lose and we’ve completed that very nicely,” Howe informed reporters. “We’ve picked up very important factors on this run.
“Sure, we haven’t received the video games in the previous few that we might have favored, but it surely’s by no means going to be plain crusing. We have been by no means going to win each sport.
“It’s such a aggressive league – the video games are so troublesome. West Ham got here at the moment combating on the different finish of the desk, however they’ve obtained high quality gamers. The margins between the highest and backside groups are so small.
“The possibilities have been there for us to win – similar to Crystal Palace – and I again the gamers that we have now that if we proceed to carry out nicely, we shall be on the appropriate facet of these margins.”
It was Newcastle’s fourth draw of their final 5 league video games and this run brings again reminiscences of an analogous run in the beginning of the marketing campaign. These are the matches you’re feeling Howe’s facet might want to in the end discover a technique to win to get into the Champions League. To do this, clearly, Newcastle must sharpen up within the ultimate third.