Mon 26 Feb 2024, 10:59 · Ash Harrison

Eddie Howe launches strong defence of Saturday's scapegoat - the man we gave a rating of 2 to

Eddie Howe launches strong defence of Saturday's scapegoat - the man we gave a rating of 2 to
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We weren't particularly kind to Sven Botman in our post-match player ratings after Arsenal showed Newcastle United what a title-chasing side looks like.

To say Saturday was an off-night for the Magpies would be putting it mildly. The first half in particular was an absolute horror show as Eddie Howe's men struggled to keep possession for more than a few seconds at a time.

It actually felt like some kind of mercy that Arsenal only managed four goals, it was as if they took their foot off the gas in the second half in an act of pity, but then still went on to score two more goals just to hammer home the gulf in class.

Losing on Saturday in such spectacular fashion was a team effort

To single out one player would be ridiculous, as it took a team to play that poorly, but there's no denying that Sven Botman was way, way off his best on the night and was heavily responsible for at least two of Arsenal's goals hence the low, low score we gave him in our ratings.

Arsenal 4 1 newcastle botman karius
Getty Images
Moments before the nightmare began

However, Eddie Howe has refused to point fingers and has stood by his £35million centre-back when questions were asked of him in this morning's pre-match press conference leading into the FA Cup game with Blackburn Rovers tomorrow (via The Chronicle).

"He had a very serious knee injury, he's come back to fitness and I think he's improved with each game but I think he's still working back to his very best levels. With his injury, we're monitoring it and we're hoping he's able to adapt to Premier League football. It was a very significant knee injury.

"To play Premier League football, you have to be at your peak physical condition. He's fit to play but it was a significant injury so hopefully, with a couple more weeks he'll be back to his best.

"There should be no focus on Sven, the focus should be on the team. There was no one individual that let us down, we all weren't at our best against Arsenal. When you're not at your best against the very best sides, you get punished."

Eddie Howe has a big call to make tomorrow night

Now Howe is faced with another dilemma straight off the back of the Dan Burn/Tino Livramento quandary - does he stick with Botman against Blackburn, or rest him?

Cup games always provide an excellent excuse for managers to change things up without denting egos, but after such a poor performance, I'm sure it would play on Botman's mind and he'd feel like that's the reason he's been dropped and that could damage his confidence.

It wasn't just Saturday's performance, Botman hasn't looked anywhere near his old self since he returned from injury, but as Howe says, it takes time to get back up to speed.