Newcastle United will have been in a Champions League qualifying position for a period of 64 days when we get to NUFC’s next match.
Eddie Howe’s team moved top four after the win at Tottenham on Sunday 23 October.
Then two games and two wins (home to Villa, away at Southampton) later, Newcastle United were in third. The victory at home to Chelsea then ensuring NUFC stayed in third and comfortably in a Champions League qualifying position, albeit with only 15 games of the season played so far by Newcastle United.
A win over Leicester on Boxing day would ensure that Newcastle are still third when we enter 2023, regardless of results elsewhere. Whilst a Champions League qualifying position at the very least ensured on 1 January 2023, if beating either the Foxes or Leeds.
Whisper it gently but wins in the next two PL games for Eddie Howe’s team, if combined with another Brentford-like Man City slip up defeat at Leeds, or home to Everton, would see Newcastle United enter the new year in second and above Pep Guardiola’s side. Indeed, ahead of everybody apart from Arsenal.
Nurse, Nurse, I need a lie down.
Anyway, the bottom line is that Eddie Howe has us in there fighting for a Champions League qualifying space as things stand. The big question is, can he and his side keep it up?
Oliver Kay writing on The Athletic:
‘Do Newcastle need to buy to secure Champions League football?
To watch Newcastle in recent weeks, taking 22 points from the past eight Premier League matches and scoring 21 goals in the process, has been to witness an extraordinary transformation in a team who won just one of their first 20 games last season.
Yes, they have spent a significant amount of money in the transfer market since then — around £90million last January and more than that in the summer — but, for all the benefits brought by Kieran Trippier, Bruno Guimaraes and others, nobody witnessing the improvement in the play of Fabian Schar, Sean Longstaff, Joelinton, Joe Willock and Miguel Almiron would underestimate the impact made by new head coach Eddie Howe on the training ground.
To their delight, Newcastle find themselves third in the Premier League at Christmas, in serious contention for Champions League qualification. Whatever the schedule they envisaged after the Saudi takeover last autumn, Howe and his team are ahead of it.
So, how do they approach the new regime’s second January in charge?
New sporting director Dan Ashworth has said the club’s spending levels over the past two transfer windows are “unsustainable”, due to the Premier League’s financial regulations. Even private briefings from the club have suggested this coming January will be quiet.
But the club are in a position where Champions League qualification, and the riches and the profile that come with it, is attainable. Might one or two well-judged winter-window moves — Shakhtar Donetsk winger Mykhaylo Mudryk, say, or one of Leicester City midfielders Youri Tielemans and James Maddison — make the difference?
The one thing we can say with confidence, based on everything we know about Ashworth and Howe, is that they will not be panicked into the type of knee-jerk signing that so many other new, extremely wealthy ownership regimes have found irresistible.
Every signing made over the past 12 months has been well thought-out; even if Chris Wood was overpriced at £25million, his impact last season was positive and his departure to Tyneside certainly hurt Burnley, who at the time were direct rivals of Newcastle in a relegation battle.
Another high-class midfielder or a versatile forward, capable of playing across the front line, would hold an obvious appeal, but Howe is one of those coaches who speaks constantly about “the group” and he would not want to risk upsetting the balance of the team or the spirit that has been so integral to their progress.
The way Newcastle have been going, they might feel they can reach the Champions League with the squad they have.
The Howe effect has been extraordinary.’
Interesting stuff from Oliver Kay, who was writing about all sorts of Premier League possibilities as things stand, from Arsenal staying top and winning the title, right down to whether Frank Lampard will relegate Everton and can Wolves’ new former Real Madrid boss keep them up.
In between those, Oliver Kay pondering Newcastle United potentially keeping their position in the Champions League qualifying spots come the end of the season?
The thing is, this season’s form is not coming out of the blue, it is actually coming out of the black and white. As in, there has been no grey area throughout the entire length of 2022 so far. Eddie Howe leading Newcastle United to 20 (TWENTY) Premier League victories this calendar year and only the six (SIX) defeats.
If you are wondering how certain other clubs have got on in 2022 when it comes to Premier League defeats this calendar year, so far:
3 Man City
11 Man Utd
I think this sums up, for me at least, that Man City are still very much the ones to beat. Yes they have the very odd off day such as Brentford last time out…but only three PL defeats in 2022 is some going.
Liverpool maybe a slightly different case, as they have gone from no defeats at all last season in 2022, to now four already in 14 PL matches this season, as well as carrying extreme luck in a number of other PL games already this campaign…
Arsenal are in good form so far this season of course but along with Chelsea, Man Utd and Tottenham, they have all lost more PL matches this season than Newcastle United. Indeed, Newcastle have beat three of these four and arguably deserved to win at Old Trafford when Callum Wilson was ridiculously denied that clearest of penalties.
What I think we can say for sure, is that certainly the likes of Tottenham, Chelsea and Man Utd are not unbeatable these days, whether you are meaning individual league matches or final positions in the table. Whilst also question marks over Liverpool this season and the big question of whether Arsenal can keep it going.
That comment also of course could be applied to Newcastle United but certainly this entire 2022 form is something that can give Newcastle fans confidence that this could be sustainable.
Going back to what the man from The Athletic has had to say.
Newcastle United to buy Champions League qualification? Or whether they even need to…
Well, I think this report gets it 85% correct.
Like every other team, Newcastle United will at least in part be relying on luck and avoiding injuries to key players.
As for the evidence of what we have seen so far, Oliver Kay is of course very correct to praise Eddie Howe for the impact on existing players.
On spending money and the players signed, The Athletic man gets it mostly correct.
However, outsiders…including Oliver Kay, fail to recognise, that whilst around £200m has been spent on signings in 2022, when it comes to the success so far this season, we are only really talking about just over half that money in play (never mind all those years and transfer windows of minimal / low Mike Ashley spend).
Chris Wood (£25m) was a (relatively) expensive short-term fix to avoid relegation and would never have been signed at all, if not for Wilson’s serious injury, five days before the January 2022 window opened, leaving NUFC without a single Premier League level striker and staring relegation in the face.
Whilst £63m (£59m plus £4m future add-ons) Alexander Isak has only managed three PL games and NUFC picked up only two points (Isak not to blame, although if only he’d lifted that chance over the keeper…) in that trio of matches before injury.
Not much more than £100m to put Pope, Trippier, Burn, Bruno and Botman on the pitch (and Targett currently on the bench) is outstanding business and something the likes of Chelsea (over a quarter of a billion spent this summer) and Forest (around £145m spent this summer) could only dream of.
Returning to the original question posed by the man from The Athletic, this group of Newcastle United players (with Isak and ASM looking to force their way in next month) have undoubtedly shown they have the potential of staying the course.
However, signing one or two additions in this next transfer window wouldn’t do any harm.
I do daydream and wonder just what the reaction would be of Eddie Howe and the NUFC owners if say Newcastle beat Leicester, Leeds and Arsenal in their next three Premier League games AND saw other results also go their way.
How would the approach change, if any, to this January 2023 window, knowing that games against Fulham, Palace, West Ham and Bournemouth would be following. After which we would be at a point of 22 played and only 16 PL games left to play.
The possibilities are endless.