As we take a breather from what has been a magnificent Premier League season so far, we take a look at some of the reasons for why we should definitely getting carried away with United's incredible form.
Newcastle United are on a remarkable run - matching the leading clubs across Europe as they put up more Ws than the interior designer of Wario’s castle. Yet this isn’t the first time we’ve seen this under Howe. Following (and including) Shelvey’s banana-boot win at Leeds, they won six and drew one (and from that point won 12 of 18), behind only Liverpool and Manchester City for form. We might be seeing a momentum-powered juggernaut.
At no point this season has Eddie Howe had a full complement of players to choose from. The rocket run to third has been fuelled just as much by the likes of Murphy, Longstaff and Willock as it has Trippier, Bruno and Wilson. In particular, we’ve barely seen anything of record signing Alexander Isak; and what we have seen of him has been before Howe’s had a chance to properly embed, coach and improve him.
While it’s right to emphasise the wonders Howe has worked with the squad, and without wishing to give a red rag to a tabloid media bull uncomfortable about the cracks in the glass floor beneath the top six, Newcastle are packing financial heat. Nobody outside the club knows about realistic limits or cash flow, but the money muscle is alive and throbbing. With the club very conceivably in, and certainly around, the top 4 come January, why wouldn’t they make one or two additions to improve the squad or first team?
Newcastle have something they have lacked for a decade: a bona fide, reliable spine. Pope, Schär, Botman, Bruno and Wilson is the best backbone Tyneside has seen since Krul, Coloccini, Tiote and Ba/Cisse (and the 2022/23 vintage, on early evidence, looks sustainably better than its 2011/12 predecessor). A great side without a great spine is a rare thing in football.
Newcastle are tied with league leaders Arsenal for the meanest defence in the division. Both sides have the fewest goals conceded (11) and the most clean sheets (7). If we’re splitting hairs, Newcastle just shade the Gunners in shots against per game. Newcastle’s 11 conceded also include injury time consolations after five substitutions made against Fulham (while 4-0 up) and Southampton (while 3-0 up before answering to make it 4-1). Brick wall.
Newcastle’s remarkable run has been put together with comparatively minimal input from consensus best player of the preceding three seasons, Allan Saint-Maximin. Twinkletoes was at his ballerina best against Manchester City and demonstrated a new-found defensive responsibility when injuring himself at Wolves (before casually burying an injury time 20-yard volley to rescue a point). An engaged and committed ASM should add goals to a team which is hardly struggling for them.
A good rule of thumb for successful league football is win your home matches and draw away. Howe hasn’t just raised the drawbridge, he’s renovated the portcullis, deepened the moat and added a new layer of stonework. Since Howe took over, Newcastle have played 22 matches at St. James’ Park, winning 12 and drawing seven; and that includes a pretty dismal start. It looks difficult for opposing teams to play in a cauldron of noise and rejuvenated togetherness.
Sometimes it’s easy to overlook the obvious when it’s staring you dead in the eyes: Newcastle have some brilliant players. Thinking deliberately conservatively, Pope, Trippier, Schär, Botman, Bruno, ASM, (this version of) Almirón, Wilson and Isak would get into and improve almost all PL sides (in this writer’s opinion).
The turnaround within a year (and sometimes within a few months) is undeniable on the basis of the naked eye test alone: Howe makes our players better, and quickly. Almirón has been one of the Premier League’s best players this season and Joelinton went from laughable to enviable in a timescale similar to Liz Truss’s premiership. Shelvey, Longstaff, Schär, Burn, Willock and Murphy have noticeably and obviously improved. Coach gonna coach.
The sails of the Good Ship Magpie are billowing with the gusts of positivity. Throughout the club and around the city there is nothing but genuine elation, especially given how quickly the turd has not just been polished but lacquered in gold enamel. Ownership, management, coaches, staff, players (first team and squad) and fanbase are completely united and each section of the ecosystem fully believes in each other. This is a love-in like few others in world sport. As the song goes: Newcastle, united, will never be defeated.
Check back on Thursday for Ten reasons to keep our feet on the ground...