Eddie Howe is now the man to fight the fire that is the early relegation dogfight, steady the ship at Newcastle United, and lead the club to bigger and better things in the post-Mike Ashley years. The fanbase has not been this excited about a manager taking over at St. James Park since Rafa Benitez was paraded around the ground on March 11th, 2016.

With Rafa being more of a pragmatic manager than the legends that came before him, such as Kevin Keegan and Sir Bobby Robson, Newcastle fans knew not to expect free flowing, attacking football. However, that didn’t curb an ounce of enthusiasm and the Spaniard was adored for what he brought to the club, hope and ambition.

Fast forward 5 years later and the same enthusiasm is sweeping Tyneside yet again, with the majority of Newcastle supporters giving their 100% support to Eddie Howe, despite what some alleged sober pundits in the media claim. The Toon Army know the appointment of Eddie Howe will not guarantee automatic wins in the next few games, but it gives the team hell of a better chance of getting that first win of the season sooner rather than later compared to the tripe that the St. James’ Park faithful had been subjected to since the 15th of August.

Again, despite what the mainstream media will say, Newcastle supporters are realistic about their slim chances of survival this year after the club’s worst ever start to a league season. But the feeling with Eddie Howe at the helm is that there is now a clear vision of where this club wants to go. No more ‘keep ticking along’. No more ‘we hope to stay where we are’. Finally, Newcastle United wants to compete, achieve, and win. Christ, as Toon fans want to see more than anything else, Newcastle United will at least try!

So, now that it has been confirmed that Eddie Howe has taken the reins at St James’, there has been more than murmurs about the challenge ahead of him and whether he can get this squad of players out of the conundrum they currently find themselves in.

Let’s look at Eddie Howe’s preferred formation.

His preferred formation at Bournemouth was a 4-4-2 double 6, utilising wingers and having them pushing forward and linking up with the two strikers. Behind this were 2 midfielders sitting in front of a flat back 4. One defensive minded midfielder who would allow for the other central midfield player to get forward when possible.

In the final games of each of Bournemouth’s 4 Premier League seasons, Howe had at least 2 of the same starting back 4, although this was down to an injury Nathan Aké received in the 4-1 victory over Leicester near the end of the 19/20 season. The fans, along with the players themselves, knew which defenders would be starting, which you feel the Newcastle defence needs at the moment. An air of stability, confirmation, and reassurance would go a long way to shore up this defence. No one seems to know their jobs and confusion is creeping in far too much. How many different defenders have played in a range of defensive positions under Bruce and Jones?

In midfield, Howe likes to have a defensive minded player alongside a player to join the attack. Howe has certainly inherited a midfield to adapt to this style, with Hayden and Willock likely to form this style of partnership. The Longstaff brothers would also suit this style of midfield when Matty comes back from Scotland. However, questions will be asked of whether Shelvey has the legs to be effective in a midfield pairing like this.

Howe is an admirer of wingers linking up with strikers, and this could be a real advantage to Newcastle’s current squad. With the like of Saint-Maximin, Fraser, Murphy, Joelinton, and Almiron at his disposal and all able to play in these positions, Howe will have a welcome headache ahead of him in who he ultimately decides gets the nod to start against Brentford.

Then there are the strikers. For the last three years, Newcastle fans have only seen rare glimpses of two out and out strikers on the pitch at the same time, and there was that game against West Ham at the start of the 20/21 season when there crept in a belief that Wilson and Carroll were going to strike up a lethal partnership under Bruce.

Sadly, that fizzled out almost as straight as the Magpies took to the pitch in their next game against Brighton.

Gayle has seen his playing time redundant under the previous manager, despite Bruce’s reluctance to cash in on the former Crystal Palace man. Considering Gayle is a Championship goal machine, and there were Championship clubs sniffing about for his signature, the decision not to cash in on a striker who is moving on in years has been mystifying. Could Gayle finally get his chance under Howe?

Howe certainly has inherited a clutch of potent attack-minded players to fully implement his game plan. It is whether the defence can shore up and organise itself will be the make or break of this team’s season. Big variables missing in this current starting 11 and the ones that started the final 8 games of last season are Martin Dubravka and Paul Dummett. These two players could certainly bring some organisation and experience to this leaky defence.

Could Brentford be to Howe what Sheffield Wednesday was to Bobby Robson?

Fingers crossed.

Eoin McMahon