Newcastle United season review 2019/20: A season of discontent ended in a comfortable finish
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Many Newcastle United supporters were somewhat dreading the 2019/20 Premier League season after a summer of turmoil at St James' Park following the departure of the popular Rafa Benitez.

Steve Bruce may not have been everyone's cup of tea on Tyneside but after all of the pre-season pessimism and fear, the Magpies did at least comfortably survive in the top flight.

With defeats to Arsenal and newly promoted Norwich City in their first two matches, the worries of Newcastle supporters looked very real until a surprise away win at Tottenham Hotspur which relieved some of the pressure from Bruce's shoulders.

With home attendances being poor up until Christmas when a free half-season ticket was introduced to boost crowds, the Newcastle players may have struggled to motivate themselves but they got on with the job in hand to be fair to them, even if it wasn't always entertaining to watch.

In the cup competitions, there was good and bad for Bruce's men with an early exit to Leicester City in the Carabao Cup in what was the only all-Premier League tie of the round.

The Emirates FA Cup was much more memorable however as the Toon Army made it to the quarter-finals for the first time in over ten years, but they exited in a poor manner with a flat showing against a Manchester City side who didn't have to do much to win.

Overall it has to be said that the results may have been frustrating at times for Newcastle supporters, but given the summer of unrest before the season it seems a decent first campaign for Bruce at his hometown club. He also deserves credit for taking the FA Cup seriously and ending the club's long hoodoo in the competition. 

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Transfer business

Following the departure of Benitez in the summer of 2019, it became apparent that part of the reason behind his exit was a lack of guaranteed funds in the transfer market. This would just add to the concern upon Bruce's arrival if he were to also miss out on money to strengthen the squad.

But as is typical of Mike Ashley he decided to dip into his pockets to help Bruce out a little, even if the money available remained limited.

First to make the move to Tyneside was Joelinton who made the switch from Hoffenheim. Some Newcastle fans had to read things twice when they saw that he had arrived for £40million - yes £40 million! For a team like Newcastle, that sort of money was unheard of so surely he had to live up to his price tag. After his goal in the 1-0 win at Spurs in August, it took him until an FA Cup replay against Rochdale in January to score again, with his next league strike not coming until after lockdown. He ended the season with two Premier League goals which is not good reading for a club's record signing. 

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Andy Carroll also joined to bolster the club's attacking options but once again injuries meant that the Geordie striker struggled to get many starts in a Newcastle shirt. But he was useful from the bench on a number of occasions, claiming several assists throughout the season. As has been the case with the forward in recent years, injuries have played havoc and this continued in his first season back on Tyneside.

Emil Krafth was also signed in the summer of 2019 and there were a number of question marks about his performances throughout the campaign. As the season came to close and defensive injuries mounted supporters got to see more of the Swedish player but he failed to impress on numerous occasions. It has to be said that he was being played as a centre-back in the latter weeks of the campaign so perhaps being placed in his preferred right-back spot could see an improved Krafth next season.

It wasn't all poor form from Newcastle's new signings however with the standout performer being Allan Saint-Maximin who joined for around £16million. If anything it would make more sense for him to be the £40million man given his impact to the squad.

It did take the Frenchman a while to settle in at the club and get used to the standard of the Premier League but once he found his form, the team improved as well and he surely has to be the best piece of business completed by the club last year. 

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On the same day, the Magpies also completed another impressive deal as Jetro Willems joined on loan from Eintracht Frankfurt. Despite the wing-back being blamed for the goal conceded to Arsenal on the opening day, Willems went on to perform well for Bruce's side with two goals scored including a stunner to give Newcastle the lead at Anfield against Liverpool in September.

Injury ended the Dutchman's season early which saw Danny Rose introduced in his place in the January window. The England international had been struggling for game time at Spurs and there were signs of rustiness from the left-back. But he did improve and even when the team didn't perform particularly well, he was a name mentioned as one of the best.

Nabil Bentaleb and Valentino Lazaro also arrived on loan in January and they had mixed fortunes. Bentaleb was played regularly but failed to impress, whereas Lazaro struggled to get into the starting eleven but when he came off the bench he always made an impact. 

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Key moment of the season

It may seem bizarre to have such an embarrassing result as a key moment during a Premier League season, however that appears to be the case for Newcastle.

September's 5-0 defeat to Leicester at the King Power Stadium rightly created severe concern amongst the Newcastle fanbase as the Magpies were easily beaten.

Having only won one match prior to this game, some were calling for Bruce to go but to be fair to him and his players they reacted well and defeated Manchester United at St James' Park the following week.

After the debacle in Leicester, Bruce's side only lost one out of their five matches and that was a narrow 1-0 loss to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge with three wins in that time as well.

Newcastle were a lot more solid and resilient after the Leicester reverse which is why is actually turned out to be a turning point in Newcastle's season. 

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Player of the season

Martin Dubravka was named the club's player of the season and it is hard to disagree with that conclusion after a number of standout performances from the Slovakian international.

He does have some errors in his game but the positives certainly outweigh the negatives.

Some may say that the fact that Dubravka made the most saves in the 2019/20 season shows just how poor the Newcastle defence were, but at the same time 140 saves is a number that any goalkeeper will be happy with. It also has to be noted that some of his saves were quite miraculous and game-changing.

Dubravka deserves to be the club's player of the season based on his contribution to the team, but other notable players would be the previously mentioned Saint-Maximin, as well as the defensive duo of Jamaal Lascelles and Federico Fernandez. The Magpies' top scorer Jonjo Shelvey also deserves a mention for his improved goal scoring record. 

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Most improved player during project restart

This is an area that is quite hard to make an assessment on due to the quick turnaround of fixtures which resulted in various changes in the starting eleven.

However, one name that stands out is someone who hardly had a chance before lockdown with Steve Bruce continuing to back Joelinton upfront.

Dwight Gayle featured more prominently following the June restart and netted three times in five appearances which is not a bad record in anyone's book.

Newcastle were a team hit severely by injury throughout the whole season, and this continued post-lockdown.

This meant that several players struggled for a real run in the team and the only other standout players after the restart were Dubravka, Fernandez and Saint-Maximin who performed well all season so Gayle is worthy of this particular award. 

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