Arsenal v Newcastle: Magpies may soon be a force to be reckoned with…but they aren’t there yet!

A new era begins for Newcastle tomorrow as Eddie Howe takes to the dugout for the first time as Magpies manager.

Although technically Howe’s maiden outing was last week when Brentford visited St James’s Park, a positive COVID test kept the former Bournemouth manager sidelined so Saturday’s visit to the Emirates will be the first time he sits pitchside as the man in charge.

Here’s hoping, then, that it’s a miserable return to management for Howe and his team.

After something of a thumping at Anfield last weekend, Mikel Arteta will be keen for his young charges to shake out that defeat and get the points ticking over once more, particularly against a side struggling as badly as Newcastle.

For all their inconsistency and general underperformance over the last decade, however, it would be foolish to get complacent and I don’t think Arsenal will. Quite apart from anything else, the new manager bounce is very much a real think and often throws up unpleasant surprises. Having built up some momentum over the last month, it would be a real setback to squander it against a side as poor as Newcastle, even buoyed by a new manager.

Though not quite the ‘tactically-inept cabbage head’ he was made out to be, Steve Bruce did little to improve or develop Newcastle, with his efforts focussed more or less on stability and survival. To his credit, he did what was expected with the tools available – nothing more, nothing less. I suspect Howe will be looking for more and doing so from the get-go.

His Bournemouth teams always sought to play forward and I would be surprised if we saw something much different from his new side. It always takes time to mould a new system or a new philosophy onto a side so I wouldn’t expect to see Howe-ball just yet but it would be wise to be cognisant of the potential threats, such as they are.

For our own part, we have pretty much a full compliment of players from which to chose and a chance to build upon the sort of dynamic football we are becoming accustomed to seeing from this young side. It still has a way to go, for sure, but our fast starts, our dynamism, our better chance creation, and our resilience are all indicative of an emerging style – something we have long pined for.

We hit the skids a little against Liverpool but the foundations are still there, we must look to start building again.

In terms of personnel, I expect Arteta will look to swap Nuno Tavres for Kieran Tierney, while Alex Lacazette may also make way for Martin Odegaard. It’s also possible that Ainsley Maitland-Niles will come in for Sambi Lokonga but, of all those aforementioned, I would make that the most unlikely.

We looked a little callow at Anfield and really lacked control in midfield so it would make sense to bolster that area of the pitch, both in terms of experience and numbers. Newcastle are in no way comparable to Liverpool but Howe is no fool and there is no room for arrogance or complacency.

That said, considering the respective trajectories and squads of both sides, we should be looking to win and win well. Though we may one day look at Newcastle as a serious force in the Premier League, backed as they are by Saudi billions, they are far from that right now. Ahead of a tougher run of fixtures, we need to bring the curtain down on November with a win.

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