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Ten reasons to keep our feet on the ground after Newcastle's brilliant start

Lucas · Thursday 24th November 2022
Ten reasons to keep our feet on the ground after Newcastle's brilliant start

Following our Ten reasons to get carried away article the other day, we now take a look at the flip side: Ten reasons why we should perhaps temper our expectations going into the second part of the season.

1. Paddling pool

Newcastle's squad remains more Naseem Hamed than Tyson Fury. Howe has noticeably improved squad players (nobody seriously believed Jacob Murphy’s performances would mean we didn’t miss Allan Saint-Maximin), but there is too much of a drop-off in 3 key positions:

  • A papal injury to in-sticks Nick reunites us with Darlow, who has never convinced consistently at PL level
  • The nosedive from Trippier to Manquillo is steeper than an afternoon on Oblivion at Alton Towers
  • Bruno operates on a different stratosphere to most midfielders on the planet, let alone the others in Newcastle’s squad

2. Avoiding the congestion charge

Newcastle will stop benefitting from fixture congestion now that the European tournament group stages are over. Other teams in the Super Seven (that “clink” you just heard is the sound of a phrase being coined) will have more time to recuperate and strategise between PL matches, and it becomes more of a problem if Newcastle achieve Howe’s stated aim of going deep in cup competitions.

3. Wise up, rise up

While this writer disagrees with Tifo’s assessment that Newcastle are tactically inflexible, opposition managers will learn and identify sustainable ways to absorb and counter our 4-3-3 / 3-4-3 switch-up out of and in possession respectively. The PL isn’t wanting for top tier gafferage - even if you want to reserve judgment on Mikel Arteta for now; Guardiola, Klopp, Conte, Ten Hag and Emery are elite and both Brendan Rodgers and Thomas Frank have justifiably great reputations. Whether and How(e) Newcastle react and evolve might be the challenge that makes or limits Eddie’s career.

4. Quicksand incoming

There is nothing scientific about this point, but based on the law of averages Newcastle are likely going to hit a sticky patch at some point this season. Last season it came during a period of catch-up fixture congestion: losing away 1-0 at Chelsea was unlucky, but losing by the same scoreline at 10-man Everton and 5-1 at Spurs belied a shallow squad and a defensive naivety. How Newcastle weather a similar storm, and how many points their rivals collect simultaneously, may go a long way to dictating where Newcastle finish.

5. Don't deny your eyes

While you can deny that Newcastle may have actually been held back this season by misfortune (the magnetic post at home to Bournemouth) and VAR brainfarts (Isak’s second against the Reds, Willock's header at home to Palace), like Darth Maul’s bo staff lightsaber, it cuts both ways. United benefitted from an early (entirely justified) sending off away to Fulham; gained a point at Brighton due to the host’s profligacy and Nick Pope’s Stretch Armstrong impression and were fortunate to go in at half-time 1-0 up at St. Mary’s after Mohammed El-Younoussi’s Kanu moment. We can't rely on good fortune.

6. More noise for the Saudi boys

Newcastle’s links to Saudi Arabia will continue to be raked over the coals and used as a distracting focal point by the media and other clubs. This will only intensify in the laudanum light of FIFA’s dismal decision to host the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. As a global spotlight intensifies on the demerits of institutionalised corruption, sports washing and soft power (and what that means for the marginalised), more pressing questions are likely to be asked of Howe, Staveley and the players. It doesn’t take much imagination to see how a right-minded player might become uncomfortable.

7. Disharmony in the ranks?

Newcastle might soon have a de facto full squad to choose from, aside from Emil Krafth (disrespect intended to Ritchie and Dummett, who are now waterboys and morale managers) and absent World Cup injuries (someone please take out a restraining order on Fabinho when Bruno has the ball in training). Nobody should underestimate Howe’s man and group management, but we live in an age where players are treated like rockstars and have the swollen egos to match it. Destabilising behaviour could be a big iceberg for the SS Magpie to circumnavigate.

8. Intensity overload

Intensity certainly is our identity: we hunt the ball in packs like the wolves of Winterfell. With increased fixture congestion caused by the relentless greed-induced commoditisation of sport reaching a seeming nadir this season, will the supply of Newcastle fitness and energy levels match the demand of a top-four run-in? The intensity started in earnest on day one of pre-season; early July through late May is a long time to maintain those levels (especially with a comparatively shallow squad).

9. Actual levelling up

It’s unlikely that Newcastle competitors will continue to muddle through. Liverpool have quietly won seven of their last eight, Spurs are only a point behind in fourth despite the familiar meaningless refrain of “Spursiness” and Graham Potter’s career suggests that he will find a formula at Chelsea. This is before we mention the quietly efficient season Manchester United are putting together, potentially liberated from the zombie ankle-grab of Ronaldo’s ego.

10. Lady Expectation is gaining weight

Newcastle play without the burden of expectation, but it’s not far away. Victory is naturally addictive to humans (especially English ones). Higher expectation exponentially lowers the threshold for disappointment and recrimination, which in turn can fuel pressure to perform (especially in today’s instant-download dopamine hit world). We saw during the tepid draw at home to Bournemouth that an awkward atmosphere at St. James’ Park can be a millstone.

In case you missed it...

Check out Thursday's NUFCFEED podcast as we discuss Callum Wilson's potential contribution to England's World Cup effort, as well as our favourite Newcastle moments of 2022.