MARTIN KEOWN: Flying full-backs are the driving force behind Eddie Howe’s Newcastle revolution… if he can lead the Magpies to the top four, he will forever become an iconic figure in the North East
- Eddie Howe has been a pivotal part of both Bournemouth and Newcastle history
- The two clubs meet in the Premier League at St. James’ Park on Saturday
- The full-backs have been an important part of Howe’s success in the North East
- Quality in the squad is improving, with £100m of investments over the summer
Eddie Howe will bounce into St James’ Park today a proud man, having played a pivotal role in the recent history of both Bournemouth and Newcastle.
As a young manager, he masterminded Bournemouth’s rise from League Two to the Premier League. His fingerprints remain all over the club and he will be so pleased to see them back in the top flight.
Now, though, Howe is at the start of another journey which could prove very special.
He halted Newcastle’s slide towards the Championship last season and, with the help of the new owners and their deep pockets, has completely turned the club around.
Eddie Howe’s revolution at Newcastle United has been fuelled by his use of flying full backs
They were winless in 11 matches when he arrived but Howe never panicked. He built confidence and togetherness and quickly identified new targets.
Newcastle had to get the January transfer window right. And they did, making shrewd signings including Bruno Guimaraes and Kieran Trippier.
There are plenty of other clubs who have shown that spending big does not guarantee success. But between January and the end of last season, only Liverpool, Manchester City and Tottenham won more points than Newcastle.
This was a sleeping giant that yearned for unity and success before Howe arrived. Now, every home game feels like a celebration and his guidance has transformed players such as Joelinton and Miguel Almiron.
They have continued to build and invest well, with another £100million spent this summer. They are already replacing new signings with newer ones and Alexander Isak is proof of how the quality keeps improving.
Alexander Isak has been praised for the talent and intelligence he brings to Howe’s frontline
The Swede is an immense talent. That much was clear from his goal against Liverpool, the way he travels with the ball, the intelligence of his movement — and he will get even better.
Newcastle look more solid at the back and signing Matt Targett permanently was crucial, too.
It means that Newcastle have two accomplished full backs in Targett and Trippier.
They set everything off and a potent relationship is building down the right flank. When Almiron, being left-footed, instinctively drives inside, one of Trippier or Joe Willock breaks down the wing.
Miguel Almiron is integral to Newcastle this term, after starting just 11 league games in 2021-22
Last season under Howe, Almiron started only 11 Premier League games. This year, he has been a mainstay, with supporters responding to his hard work — although he has some way to go to reach the cult status afforded to Joelinton, whose move into midfield has been career-changing.
But if Newcastle want to challenge for the top six, they need their best players available every week. That means Guimaraes in midfield, Wilson vying with Isak up front and Allan Saint-Maximin a constant presence on the left.
He looked world-class against Manchester City recently and it is often Saint-Maximin who Newcastle rely on to find a way through stubborn defences.
Newcastle use the likes of Allan Saint-Maximin to find their way past stubborn defences
If Howe can lead Newcastle to the top four or — if you dare to dream — the title, he will forever become an iconic figure in the North East.
But they are still some way off those dizzy heights and he will need time to nurture and develop this team.
Today is also a big day for Bournemouth and their caretaker manager Gary O’Neil.
He has secured a draw against Wolves and an outstanding win at Nottingham Forest.
The way he has coped with those first two games tells me he is desperate to be the club’s next manager.
I was at their 3-2 win over Forest and I was struck by O’Neil’s tactical nous and how relentless he was in trying to win a game that looked lost.
Howe’s next task is Bournemouth, the side he led through the divisions to the Premier League
With his side 2-0 down at half-time, O’Neil knew that if he had any chance of landing the job, he had to get a result. So he was bold, switching from four to five at the back, shifting Marcus Tavernier to left wing back, introducing Ryan Fredericks and moving the creative Ryan Christie into a central area.
The switch allowed Philip Billing more freedom and his tremendous strike shifted the momentum entirely.
O’Neil has already worked under Jonathan Woodgate and Scott Parker as a coach, and now he wants to take that next step.
So far, so good — although Bournemouth have conceded a joint-record 18 goals in six Premier League games this season, while they have managed just a measly 12 shots on target.
No doubt this will be an emotional day for Howe but if Newcastle’s European ambitions are to be achieved, nothing short of three points will do.
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