Saudi money: Newcastle took a two-goal lead in the first 15 minutes to move seven points clear of the relegation zone and cling to another victory at St James’ Park.
Ryan Fraser scored the game’s first goal after converting a rebound off the post. Just two minutes later, Fabian Schar’s header doubled the home side’s lead. However, an unidentified Lewis Dunk returned home to earn a point for the visitors.
Newcastle were a club that tended to sit back in a low block and let the opponent get the ball under former manager Steve Bruce.
Currently, under Eddie Howe, and particularly in recent games, Newcastle looks to press from the front.
This season could even turn into a drab one if you consider mid-table finishes to be drab. In actuality, it’s a campaign marked by seismic shifts both on and off the field, and fans and players are embracing every moment of it.
This is a risky plan, not just because getting around the press could leave a side vulnerable at the back, but also because the Newcastle players had never been required to press before. This can result in errors and a misunderstanding of where they belong in the system.
Newcastle’s players, on the other hand, performed this strategy flawlessly, frequently winning the ball higher up the pitch. Especially when Brighton attempted to build from the back, with their center backs feeding into the middle.
Making an impact with new signings
Newcastle United spent the most money in the transfer window, spending $113 million on players including Guimaraes, Wood, Kieran Trippier, and Dan Burn.
Newcastle United completed every transfer during the winter transfer season, including Eddie Howe’s deadline-day purchases of Matt Targett and Dan Burn.
Given their league position and the completion of their £305 million Saudi-led takeover in October, Newcastle was going to try to recruit reinforcements, and they did so.
While January arrivals have boosted Newcastle’s resurgence, Howe’s biggest achievement has been the metamorphosis of players like Fraser. Under Steve Bruce, the winger only had one decent game in 13 months, and that was for Scotland.
When Fabian Schar overcame Brighton’s zonal marking to connect with Fraser’s free-kick and flick home a header from eight yards, Fraser, who was considered for February’s Player of the Month award, added an assist to his goal.
‘Ryan Fraser has always been a goal scorer,’ Howe explained. ‘However, it’s fantastic that he can also score goals.’ It helps to believe that you have objectives in various areas of the team. Ryan tilted the game in our favor with two key moments.’
Despite this, Brighton remained the superior team. Lewis Dunk strode uncontested onto a corner and headed in from close range after 55 minutes.
You were never convinced, though, that Potter’s team would win anything more than a plucky victory. So it turned out.
Last season, Newcastle played like this in the same game and lost 3-0. That’s the difference under Howe, who has restored faith in a team whose confidence had been undermined to the point of dread before he arrived.
It also helped that Dan Burn was on his team, rather at Brighton, whom he had left in January. He was the best player in the game. The fact that he was the home team’s center-back reveals a lot about the game’s outcome.
Current log position
Record: 6-10-10, 28 points (1.08 per game), 14th in Premier League (1st Tier)
Home Record: 4-6-4, 18 points 2-4-6, 10 points on the road
Goals: 30 (1.15 per game), Goals Against: 46 (1.77 per game), Diff: -16
xG: 26.8, xGA: 40.0, Diff: -13.1
Last game: 2–1 victory against Brighton & Hove Albion
Next Match: Thursday, Mar 10 at Southampton
FA Cup: Lost Third round proper to Cambridge United
EFL Cup: Lost Second round to Burnley
The defense has clearly been the foundation for Newcastle’s better performances. In January, a shaky defense allowed 42 goals in just 19 games, which was tied for the most in the division. The Magpies, on the other hand, have only conceded five goals in their last eight games, thanks to a strong turnaround.
In the form table, the Magpies are breathing down the necks of title-chasing Liverpool thanks to their current eight-game unbeaten run. In the last six games, Newcastle has outperformed Arsenal, Manchester City, Manchester United, and Chelsea, demonstrating how solid Howe’s team is right now.
Newcastle has a seven-point cushion over the bottom three thanks to a run worthy of a European spot, and supporters’ anxieties of another season in the Championship have all but vanished. A challenging fixture list is one of the challenges the Magpies will face in the coming weeks. Newcastle’s position in the form table is under threat after four consecutive away trips against Southampton, Chelsea, Everton, and Spurs.