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Five things to learn from Newcastle’s pre-season

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Image: @NUFC via Twitter

Pre-season is over and Newcastle’s Premier League campaign starts on 6th August. The Magpies’ extensive run of friendlies holds some clues as to one what next season might look like and raises some new questions.

Back-to-back wins bode well

Newcastle head into the Premier League campaign in good form after four wins out of six friendlies across July. With an opening fixture against newly promoted Nottingham Forest less than a week away, victories over Gateshead, 1860 Munich, Atalanta and Athletic Bilbao will give the Magpies confidence.

The Magpies secured a 2-1 home win over Athletic Bilbao on Saturday thanks to goals from Wilson and Sain-Maximin. This was preceded by a 1-0 victory over Atalanta just the previous day. Consecutive victories at St James’ Park against European opposition will encourage fans.

Howe told NUFC TV that winning is a “nice habit to get into” and that “preseason has gone as well as it can go”. He played down speculation about form going into the new season “he wouldn’t read too much into” the clubs’ victories. 

Newfound squad depth but few first XI clues

Friendlies are always an opportunity for a manager to experiment with different line-ups. With Howe telling press that “pre-season is used for lots of different things,” anticipating Howe’s first choice XI is an impossible task.

Rotating the starting XI frequently, including playing back-to-back friendlies against high level European opposition, the games highlighted the growing depth to Newcastle’s squad. New signings and the emergence of young talents like Elliot Anderson show that Howe has ranks to call on through the season.

A few key positions remain contested. For example, the manager is clearly creating competition between Nick Pope and Martin Dubravka for the goalkeeper spot, with both sharing preseason minutes. On the wing, Miguel Almiron impressed with a double against Benfica but Newcastle’s search for another forward to compete is well documented.

19-year-old Anderson pushes for first team spot

The usual suspects, Callum Wilson, Allan Saint-Maximin and Bruno Guimaraes were among the goals as ever, and even Miguel Almiron impressed over pre-season. However, it was academy graduate Elliot Anderson who caused the biggest stir.

Elliot Anderson has been the breakout star of Newcastle’s pre-season. The 19-year-old midfielder spent last season on loan to Bristol Rovers in League Two but has been given plenty of preseason game time by Eddie Howe. The Whitley Bay native was clearly keen to impress and was a constantly lively and creative presence in midfield.

The young midfielder earned the deciding penalty against Atalanta on Friday, being tripped after some sharp movement in the box. Howe praised Anderson’s performance: “I thought Elliot today again was very very good. Tactically, physically, technically a very high level performance.”

He will now have a decision to make whether the youngster is ready to feature in his plans this season.

Anderson talked to NUFC TV about his pre-season and fight for a place in the team: “I thought I’ve done well. I still need to improve and try to do better things. I’d love to stay.”

Signings Pope and Botman given debuts

Nick Pope had a calm debut, keeping a clean sheet against 1860 Munich. He had a more eventful first half appearance against Benfica. He conceded two in 45 minutes, at fault for one after failing to claim a corner. Pope showed his worth however, with an outstanding double save to deny last season’s Champions League quarter-finalists. 

He marked his home debut against Atalanta with another clean sheet. The ex-Burnley keeper was not tested much but looked assured when called into action with relatively routine saves.

Howe split appearances evenly between goalkeepers Nick Pope and Martin Dubravka, suggesting that the number one spot next season is still up for grabs.

Sven Botman also made his debut as a substitute against 1860 Munich earlier in the month. A more significant test came when he made his St James’ Park debut in the more intense match against Athletic Bilbao on Saturday. 

Boss Eddie Howe was impressed by Botman’s performance: “Very solid. Very composed on the ball. He uses the ball very intelligently. He’s got a lovely relaxed manner on the pitch, but when he needs to defend and be aggressive I think he’s prepared and able to do that too. I thought it was a very good home debut.” 

Howe’s praise could mark the Dutch centre-back out as a likely starter once the league gets underway next Saturday.

St James’ Park packed for friendlies

Earlier in the summer, queues reached outside St James’ Park for tickets to Newcastle’s home friendlies. Close to 47,000 were in attendance on Saturday afternoon to watch the 2-1 victory over Bilbao, with an additional 40,000 on Friday watching Atalanta. 

After his home debut against the Basque side, Botman noted the presence of the fans: “If you asked me to tell you one club in the world with a full stadium for a friendly game I couldn’t, but Newcastle is one.”

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Saudi Arabia wants its investors to own Manchester United

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North East Updates - Breaking News

Sports minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal revealed the country’s latest sporting ambitions in an interview with Sky News – with the sovereign wealth fund already owning Newcastle and now funding a breakaway golf series.

 

Sports minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal revealed the country’s latest sporting ambitions in an interview with Sky News – with the sovereign wealth fund already owning Newcastle and now funding a breakaway golf series.

 

It follows the Manchester United board announcing that they are open to a sale of the club.

Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisalstated he would be keen on Ronaldo signing for a Saudi Pro League after the World Cup, with the 37-year-old a free agent following a controversial interview and exit to Manchester United earlier this week..

 

“Who wouldn’t want him to play in their league?” “He’s a role model to a lot of young players – him and Messi.”

 

Sky news are reporting – It is the availability of United – after the Glazers announced plans for a potential sale – and Ronaldo that is interesting Prince Abdulaziz.

 

What are your thoughts on this – join the conversation on our Facebook page.

 

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Which Newcastle Players Are Going To The World Cup?

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The FIFA World Cup in Qatar gets underway next week and here are all the Newcastle players involved in the tournament

Callum Wilson (England)

Newcastle striker Callum Wilson is a player that has consistently shown the quality to earn a spot in an England squad at a major tournament but has sadly had his chances diminished by injuries in the past.

However, Wilson is currently injury free and is on the plane to Qatar! The Coventry City academy graduate averages a goal every 130 minutes in the Premier League this season, which is the second-best return of all English players behind Harry Kane.

The 30-year-old may have to bide his time for an opportunity due to England captain Harry Kane being the first-choice striker. That said, Wilson gives Gareth Southgate a great alternative should England find themselves chasing a game.

Kieran Trippier (England)

Gareth Southgate has always been very fond of Kieran Trippier’s abilities and what he brings to a team. For example, in Euro 2020 Southgate opted to play Trippier at left-back ahead of a more natural option in Ben Chilwell due to the 32-year-old’s experience and leadership qualities.

Trippier brings bags of experience at major tournaments after reaching the semi-final of the 2018 World Cup and the final of Euro 2020.

With injuries at right-back to the likes of Reece James and uncertainty around the fitness of Kyle Walker, Trippier could start at right wing-back in England’s World Cup opener against Iran.

Nick Pope (England)

The last player to complete The Magpies’ England trio is Nick Pope. Toon’s No.1 has been outstanding since arriving from Burnley in the Summer and has earnt his place in England’s World Cup squad.

Pope has the joint most clean sheets in the Premier League this season (6) alongside Manchester City goalkeeper, Ederson and fellow England goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale.

It remains to be seen if Gareth Southgate picks Pope to be his first-choice goalkeeper in Qatar ahead of Jordan Pickford and Aaron Ramsdale. Pope started both of England’s last games in the Nations League back in September.

Bruno Guimarães (Brazil)

Moving to South America and the favourites to win the competition, Brazil. Bruno Guimarães has been one of Newcastle’s stand-out players this season and has deservedly earned himself a spot in Brazil’s very competitive World Cup Squad.

Guimarães has statistically been the best midfielder in the Premier League so far this season and will be hoping his performances have done enough to earn him a start against Serbia in Brazil’s opening fixture.

That said, Brazil manager Adenor Leonardo Bacchi has predominantly played with a midfield two of Manchester United duo, Casemiro and Fred at the base of the Brazilian midfield.

Fabian Schär (Switzerland)

The Magpies’ centre-back has been in great form alongside Sven Botman at the heart of Newcastle’s defence this season and will be hoping to continue his form in Qatar.

Schär has some tough competition in his position in the form of Manchester City centre-back Manuel Akanji and Borussia Monchengladbach’s Nico Elvedi.

Switzerland find themselves in the same group as tournament favourites Brazil, which will see Schär reunited with Toon teammate Bruno Guimarães in Gameweek 2.

Who didn’t make the squad?

The most surprising player to not make their country’s squad is Sven Botman. The former Lille centre-back has been a major part of why Newcastle has the Premier League’s best defence so far this campaign.

Louis van Gaal has a great pool of centre-backs available to him and opted for the likes of Virgil van Dijk, Matthijs de Ligt, Stefan de Vrij and Nathan Ake over Botman.

Another Toon player with World Cup disappointment is Joelinton, who has failed to follow Bruno Guimarães on the plane to Qatar.

Joelinton has been a revelation under Eddie Howe following his remarkable transformation from a striker to a box-to-box midfielder. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be for Joelinton this year.

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What We Learnt (Spurs 1-2 Newcastle)

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Newcastle United were victorious at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium yesterday, winning 2-1 and now sit fourth in the Premier League. This is the first time they’ve been there at this stage of the season in 10 years.

 

Goals from Callum Wilson and Miguel Almiron were enough to scare away any chances of a second-half Spurs comeback. That’s six goals for Miggy in what is now his best-ever season for goals in black and white.

 

With 21 points, just five behind Manchester City and seven behind current league leaders Arsenal, the Toon are looking better than ever, but what did the victory yesterday tell us?

 

Toon are charging for Europe

 

If you didn’t believe it at the start of the season you should now. Eddie Howe has transformed Newcastle into a team with a winning mentality with a real sense of togetherness in a squad who are willing to battle for one another, week in and week out.

 

Very few teams will travel to London this season and manage to come away with a point, never mind three when playing Spurs. Not only this game, however, but Man City (3-3), Liverpool (2-1) and Brentford (5-1) have also shown that Howe and his side mean business this season and are willing to go toe to toe with some of the very best teams, coaches and players in the world. 

 

In his first signing interview, Sven Botman said, “Newcastle wants to reach the top and the top is in the league and, at the end, maybe in Europe.” Maybe he didn’t specifically mean this season but now he and the rest of his teammates should believe that they have a real chance of playing European football next season.

 

Almiron transformation shouldn’t go unnoticed

 

Almiron made 30 appearances last season in the league and finished with just one goal and no assists. Now, after just 12 games and six goals, the Paraguayan is already on course to smash his previous goal-scoring records which have seen him accumulate nine Premier League goals over the course of four seasons. 

 

Loved by the fans and with the full support of his teammates, it can only get better for the Paraguayan at this point. His goal against Tottenham showed the dribbling, flair and finishing quality he withholds, something that Steve Bruce and Rafael Benitez could never get out of him.

 

Eddie Howe must be awarded credit for this development, as with the current budget the club has, he could’ve easily found a replacement in the summer. But, just like Joelinton, Miggy has cemented his spot in Newcastle’s starting eleven and is proving every week why he deserves to be there.

 

Wilson & Burn should be considered by Southgate 

 

On TalkSport recently, Neil Warnock warned Gareth Southgate saying his loyalty to players might be his downfall and said Dan Burn is “Mr Steady Eddie” referring to his versatility, being able to play left-back or centre-back.

 

Burn started 28 Premier League games last season and this season has 11 out of 12. His consistent dominating performances in Newcastle’s back line have put him into the conversation for a first-ever England call-up and I don’t think many would disagree. With John Stoned injured, Harry Maguire and Tyrone Mings not in good form and not getting regular game time, Gareth Southgate’s defensive decisions should now be a lot more challenging.

 

Callum Wilson has proved yet again his abilities as a top Premier League striker. His goal against Spurs not only put him in the headlines over England captain Harry Kane but also made it four in eight for the English man this season who has averaged 2.8 shots per game with an average scoring frequency of 162 minutes. 

 

With no clear-cut backup striker to Kane, is Wilson ahead of Ivan Toney and Tammy Abraham in the race to be England’s number two striker?

 

So, what do you think? Do Newcastle have a serious chance at European football next season, can Almiron stay at his best and should Wilson and Burn be considered for a World Cup call-up?

 

Join the conversation on our Facebook page …

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