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Newcastle in 2024: 5 key questions in the second half of the season

Newcastle in 2024: 5 key questions in the second half of the season

Newcastle United has been shaky in the first half of the 2023/24 campaign but there are still positive signs for the club. The Magpies finished the 2023 season in the top four—can they replicate this level of success in the current campaign?

Here are five key questions answered on Newcastle’s run for the season.

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Can Newcastle stay afloat amidst the injuries?

Every Premier League club has struggled with injuries. However, they have not experienced it on the same level as the Magpies this season. The squad have a whopping 12 injuries so far in the 2023/24 season, three more than the closest team, Tottenham Hotspur.

The injuries span every position and when you add Sandro Tonali’s suspension to that list, their inactive list adds up to 13. It is a tough situation for Newcastle, especially their defence.

Injuries have ravaged the Newcastle defence

The Newcastle backline has been the most affected by the injuries. To start the season, only Sven Botman was struggling with an injury but as the campaign progressed, injuries hampered the Newcastle defence. Dan Burn followed him with a lower back injury then goalkeeper Nick Pope was sidelined too.

Midfield adjusts without Tonali

Newcastle’s midfield is arguably their biggest strength but were dealt a blow when Tonali was suspended for the season due to breaching betting rules. He was supposed to be a marquee signing for Newcastle as he was a complete midfielder. Tonali could defend well as a #6 but also contribute to offence like a #8.

Now, the midfield has to adjust without Tonali in their plans for the rest of the season. Bruno Guimarães and Joelinton will have to play more of a playmaking role while also providing their usual energy on defence.

Do they need to be active in the January transfer window?

Amidst the injuries, Newcastle fans have noted that they need new players to join the club. This can be done in the January 2024 transfer window when they can sign new players. Some of them are:

Solving the goalkeeper dilemma

Nick Pope will not be with Newcastle United until the last few weeks of the season due to a shoulder injury. This means Newcastle must look at other options for a goalkeeper as Martin Dúbravka is not the long-term option for the Magpies. Here are the options:

  • Aaron Ramsdale: After falling out of his #1 spot at Arsenal in favour of David Raya, Ramsdale has been left on the bench. He is a superb goalkeeper who helped the Gunners in a title charge with his shot-stopping and passing ability.

  • Sam Johnstone: If Newcastle wants to play more of the same style with their goalkeeper, Johnstone might be the best choice since he and Pope are elite shot-stoppers.

  • David De Gea: Since he exited Manchester United, De Gea has not signed with a club. Newcastle might be his road back to professional football as he’s an elite shot-stopper as evidenced by his Golden Glove in the 2022/23 season.

Finding midfield depth

With Tonali not with the club, Newcastle lacks depth in the midfield after having five to six players at the start of the season. Lewis Miley, Joe Willock, and Sean Longstaff have all played alongside Joelinton and Bruno. However, they may need some more reinforcements with these two players:

  • Ruben Neves: A loan deal is possible between Al-Hilal and Newcastle to bring Ruben back to the Premier League. He is a physical midfielder who can moonlight as a playmaker, making him a good fit alongside Joelinton and Bruno.

  • Kalvin Phillips: After not receiving enough minutes with Manchester City, Kalvin Phillips is looking for more opportunities to play and Newcastle might be the best situation for him. He fits in well with their playstyle but will cost a lot as Man City is known for attaching high value to its players.

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What is the optimal front three for Newcastle?

The Magpies’ attacking lineup has raised some questions because they are talented players but the optimal combination has not been reached yet. This is a question that Eddie Howe needs to answer soon because they need continuity in their attack.

Newcastle needs a better right-winger

With Miguel Almirón starting on the right wing, Newcastle does not have the skills to dominate that right side. That is why they rely on Kieran Trippier to bomb forward to keep crossing the ball into the box. Combine this with the injury to Jacob Murphy, the right side has Almirón struggling to create chances.

Murphy is the best option but with his injury, the team opted to put Almirón in the starting lineup. Another option is moving either Harvey Barnes or Anthony Gordon to the right but that can’t be done just yet with the former’s injury.

The Isak vs Wilson debate

In the centre-forward role, Newcastle keeps on choosing between Alexander Isak and Callum Wilson. Both players are superb with their goal-scoring but with the 4-3-3 formation Eddie Howe prefers, they can’t be strike partners with two at the top. Isak is probably the more skilled player but Wilson has the strength to battle big centre-backs.

Thankfully, Isak can drift over to the left wing when needed as he can use his dribbling skills to take on full-backs and cross the ball in. However, him in the centre leaves Wilson out. It is an interesting debate that Howe should solve to maintain continuity.

Can Newcastle keep up with other top-four contenders?

Newcastle has to compete with some good teams for a spot in the top four in the 2023/24 season. This will be tougher than the previous season when some clubs like Chelsea and Liverpool underperformed, leading to Newcastle securing a Champions League spot.

Aston Villa is a big-time rival

Unai Emery’s Aston Villa has been flying in the 2023/24 season, getting notable wins over Arsenal and Manchester City, propelling them into the top four. They are playing with superb energy on defence while maintaining a solid offensive style. Villa loves to grind out games which is important for a top-four race.

Tottenham Hotspur has an edge over Newcastle

Another contender facing Newcastle is Tottenham who were top of the league in the early part of the season with their aggressive offence and high defence line. They are a big-time rival for the Magpies as they were just beaten 4-1 by Spurs and the North London side can go on big winning streaks when they reach blistering form.

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How can Eddie Howe maximise the talent on the squad?

Eddie Howe has a talented roster but needs to ensure that he’s getting the most out of them. There are some fixtures of the starting XI like Joelinton, Bruno, and Kieran Trippier but the rest of the squad needs to be maximised by putting them in the optimal position to thrive.

The playstyle is heavily centred on offence

Howe loves playing with more of a focus on offence because they can already rely on their defence. However, Howe needs to find the right balance between his focus because they are being dominated by counter-attacks.

Kieran Trippier is the key to success

While Isak is arguably the best talent in the squad, Trippier has emerged as the most important player on the team. He is not only a reliable defender at right-back but he is their best creator with seven assists so far on offence with his crosses and set-piece ability.

Trippier needs more support because he’s doing the heavy lifting for Newcastle. As long as they can support him through the midfield and with a better right-winger, this Magpies squad has a shot for a top-four spot.

Appreciating the standouts for the 2023/24 season so far

Even with questions regarding Newcastle’s form, the players have shown they can live up to expectations. Here are a few of the standouts:

  • Anthony Gordon: The winger has arguably been Newcastle’s best forward which is evidenced by his six goals so far. His speed breaks opposing defences which leads to Newcastle scoring more goals.

  • Kieran Trippier: The right-back is a creative force for Newcastle with his skills on set pieces and how he loves to cross balls into the box.

  • Sean Longstaff: The 26-year-old is adept at providing progressive passes forward but he is also hard-working as he’s relentless with how he pressures opponents who have the ball.

  • Jamaal Lascelles: Stepping in as the centre-back during Sven Botman’s injury, Lascelles has contributed with his physicality and tackles. Lascelles also loves to clear the ball and help initiate the counter-attack.

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Look forward to the second half of Newcastle’s 2023/24 season where they look to be more consistent in competing at the highest level across their competitions. Enjoy this second half by placing bets here at Sportsbet.io where you can get promotions like Match of the Day and the Super Boost exclusive for Newcastle matches.

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Cholo Martin17 Jan 2024

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