The arrival of Newcastle United’s new head coach Eddie Howe has brought excitement back on Tyneside with Magpies supporters eager to watch an exciting, refreshing, and unique style of play, similar to the days of The Entertainers.
Howe is notorious from his AFC Bournemouth days for playing on the front foot and his first match in charge of Newcastle is on Saturday afternoon when they host last season’s EFL Championship play-off winners Brentford at St James’ Park.
Despite receiving disappointing news that he will not be available to attend the fixture as he will have to self-isolate in line with the government guidance, after suddenly testing positive for Covid-19. The 43-year-old will be desperate to get off to a good start and play with more attacking intent as the black-and-whites sit second bottom in the Premier League and without a win in 12 matches in all competitions.
The Bees could be the perfect opponents for The Magpies as Thomas Frank’s side have lost their last four league games and relegation rivals Burnley and Norwich City both recorded their first victories against the West London outfit.
Over the international break, Howe’s had a chance to get to know his squad better and with places up for grabs, fringe players such as Jamal Lewis, Fabian Schar, Jacob Murphy and Ryan Fraser - someone who he knows very well from their time together on the South Coast - will look to stake their claim to break into the starting line-up.
Howe many changes will Eddie make?
The anticipation to see what Howe’s first team sheet will look like is mouth-watering. Changes will be expected given Newcastle’s current predicament but how many remains to be seen.
One of the fan favourites, defender Schar, is in high spirits after helping Switzerland qualify for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, and will now be hoping he can take his form back to the North East and make his first appearance for The Magpies since August after surprisingly being frozen out by Steve Bruce.
With Newcastle boasting the second worst defensive record in the top-flight so far with 24 goals conceded, it might be the right time to re-introduce Schar to help bring some stability and organisation to the defence.
Left-back Lewis who was also away on international duty with Northern Ireland ensured The Swiss won Group C in their World Cup qualifiers after they claimed a highly impressive goalless draw over Italy to ensure The Azzuri had to settle for a place in March’s play-offs.
But on Tyneside, Lewis has only started one match for Newcastle this season and that came in the Carabao Cup penalty-shootout home defeat to Burnley. The 23-year-old has just six minutes of Premier League football to his name this campaign, but the promising youngster will look to fight for that full-back spot with Matt Ritchie and establish a regular place under Howe's leadership, like he's managed too with his national side.
However, in his pre-match press conference, Howe stated that players that have just arrived back from the international break might have to wait for their chance to impress him since they have missed a large proportion of training in preparation for the game.
Although Murphy has started in four matches for The Magpies, his five other appearances have come from the bench as the energetic right wing-back has struggled to replace Javier Manquillo, despite both averaging the same amount of tackles (19).
Since joining his boyhood club in 2017, Murphy has made 82 appearances and has improved his defensive positioning over the years, while still posing a threat further up the pitch and could be one to watch in Howe's rigorous system which looks likely to benefit his style of play.
Another player keen on catching Howe's attention is Fraser, who has played just 283 minutes this season. Since moving from The Cherries to Newcastle, he has yet to reach his full potential but has shown glimpses of quality, just not on a consistent level. But if anyone can get the best out of the Scotland playmaker it's Howe. During his time at Bournemouth, Fraser along with Callum Wilson created a special partnership and the aim will be to find that magic once again.
Howe wants attractive football at Newcastle
At the Vitality Stadium, Howe implemented his own philosophy by playing an entertaining style of football and dominating the possession. His formations switched regularly from a 4-4-2 to a 4-4-1-1 to get the wide players more involved and also to high press their opponents whenever they had the ball.
This style of football is completely different to what Newcastle supporters have seen with previous managers, but Howe will be optimistic he can inspire the players to play with freedom and adapt to his ideas.
While this system will take time for all of the players to adjust too, once everyone is on board it will be a sight to behold for The Toon Army faithful to witness.