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Is the writing on the wall for Eddie Howe?

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17th March, 2024

Newcastle United were predictably knocked out of the FA Cup by Manchester City at the quarter-final stage, ending any chance of Eddie Howe’s side getting their hands on silverware this season.

Other than the five at the back system which is something foreign for the team, a 2-0 defeat away at the Etihad is never a result on its own which should be looked at in too much detail. Regardless of being dominated statistically, it would be harsh to lambast Howe for this performance alone.

The main issues lie in some of the other performances this season.

The ones that stand out immediately are the games in which Newcastle have dropped points at home. St James’ Park was a fortress last season, with the only two defeats coming against Liverpool (Newcastle had 10 men for the majority of the game) and Arsenal (who were fighting for the Premier League title).

To go from that to being cut apart by Nottingham Forest and Chris Wood, and scraping draws late in the game against Luton Town and Bournemouth is a concern. It isn’t hard to see the side has fallen off majorly this season, but is it fair to lumber all the blame onto Howe?

The obvious place to start in defence of the former Bournemouth manager is the unfortunate injury list within the team this season. Bad enough having two, albeit clinical No.9s, who are regularly sidelined throughout the season due to a plethora of different injuries, this season the club have had one of the unluckiest runs in recent memory in the Premier League.

Sven Botman, Joe Willock, Joelinton, Harvey Barnes, Keiran Trippier, Elliot Anderson, Nick Pope and Matt Targett have all been sidelined at various stages of the campaign to add to the pre-existent knocks and muscle problems that both Alexander Isak and Callum Wilson pick up on a regular basis.


Add this to big money signing Sandro Tonali being suspended due to gambling breaches and the club playing more games towards the start of the season due to the added responsibility of playing in the Champions League, and it is clear to see why the team have looked flat at points.

Eddie Howe

Newcastle manager Eddie Howe has endured a tough campaign (Photo by George Wood/Getty Images)

Despite Jamie Carragher correctly claiming that Newcastle look like they “are almost ready for the end of the season” after the 3-2 loss at Chelsea last Monday, this doesn’t tell the story for the whole season. For many games this season, the effort has been there from the players but the standard has dropped massively.

While again, injuries have to be taken into account, many of the players who were instrumental in qualifying for the Champions League have dropped off massively this time around.

Starting with the defence, Trippier had a horrendous run of games at the back end of 2023. Mistakes against Everton cost Newcastle from getting a draw at Goodison Park. After that the England defender was responsible for giving away a last-minute goal against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in the Carabao Cup quarter-final before putting his penalty off target in the shootout as the team missed out on a place in the semi-finals.

The last-four tie would’ve been against Middlesbrough, in which Newcastle would’ve been massive favourites against their North-East rivals to reach their second consecutive League Cup Final. Since the turn of the year, Trippier’s performances have improved slightly but he still looks a long way off the player he was in the previous campaign.

Newcastle player Kieran Trippier reacts during the Emirates FA Cup Third Round match between Newcastle United and Cambridge United at St James' Park on January 08, 2022 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

(Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)


Sven Botman has looked a shadow of the player he was last season, while Dan Burn has been getting exposed for his lack of pace time and time again. The only one out of the solid back four from last season who can hold his head high at the moment is Fabian Schär, who, despite a few mistakes here and there, has looked a class act for the majority of the campaign.

In the midfield, Newcastle have struggled massively without Joelinton and Joe Willock, with Sean Longstaff showing that he isn’t good enough to be playing for a team who have aspirations of playing in the Champions League and winning trophies on a regular basis.

Winger Miguel Almiron has showed he also isn’t good enough to be playing for Newcastle if they really want to push on and build on the form of last season. On the other flank, Anthony Gordon has been a ray of light in a hugely underwhelming season and his England call-up is fully merited.

While Howe has made some questionable decisions this season – most notably giving Tino Livramento such little game time when he has shown this season to be a better option than both Kieran Trippier and Dan Burn – it is harsh to call for his head after what he has done for the club in such a short space of time.

While this season hasn’t been good, the club could still make a push for a Europa Conference League spot.

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Last season is the main reason why Eddie Howe should be given more time in charge. The ability to guide a team out of the relegation battle the season before, to then take them to a League Cup Final and a Champions League spot is something that shouldn’t be overlooked.

While Kevin Keegan and Sir Bobby Robson are regarded as legends at the club for what they achieved in the St James’ Park dugout, neither of them were able to get Newcastle to a final. Howe achieved that in his first full season and got the absolute maximum out of his players to help them see off Liverpool to claim a place in European football’s elite competition.

Rumours of a potential new manager have been circulating during the bad run of form. There is no guarantee that the likes of Jose Mourinho would’ve been able to do better with the depleted squad Howe has had at his disposal this season.

While improvement next season is a necessity for Eddie Howe, there is an element of him being a victim of his own success due to the overachievement last season. The 46-year-old has earned the right to get another transfer window and kick off the new campaign next season with what will hopefully be a replenished and stronger set of players.