That was a big week, a disappointing though not destructive defeat at home to Dortmund and a point away to Wolves which I still haven’t worked out is something to be savoured or not, given like West Ham we were ahead in the game but didn’t manage to hold on to the win. The two PL away fixtures came after exhausting Champions League encounters and were against decent, in-form sides so maybe my glass should be half full. On the flip-side, I’d be happier getting some away wins on the board.
Thankfully several results went our way at the weekend so we remain in sixth position and with much to play for. I find myself writing this on a regular basis these days but this is another massive week for Newcastle United.
Here we are contemplating a pivotal pair of fixtures away to Man U in the League Cup and a massive contest with Arsenal at SJP on Saturday evening. Like you, there’s also one eye on Dortmund too.
I don’t think many will argue we are looking a wee bit fatigued and Howe’s resources are stretched. Looking at United’s bench on Saturday should be a reminder to Dan Ashworth and the board there is still much to do to improve the depth of our squad. We had two goalies named as subs and a surfeit of full-backs which underlines the point in the takeover and the rebuilding journey we are on right now.
Shit happens and that’s what can be described with the Tonali situation (c) as well as injuries to Botman, Barnes, Isak and Murphy. Willock and Joelinton may be making their returns but both will need time on the grass to get back up to speed and I do worry about Callum Wilson playing game after game given his injury record. I do agree with the view in the next two windows United needs to recruit a third striker both to give us more capacity but also as part of the succession plan for Wilson.
Remember twenty years ago under SBR behind Shearer and Bellamy we had Ameobi and Lua-Lua. We’re thin up top.
There has been some talk about Howe’s reluctance to use Hall and Livramento in the PL despite the investment in them over the summer. I can see the argument with Livramento on Saturday in particular as Trippier seemed to be knackered and not himself. Would using either have meant we’d won the game? Would it have meant if we’d substituted Trippier we’d have captured 3pts? Weren’t we rather crying out for more energy in midfield rather than at full-back? There was nothing on the bench to provide that in my opinion.
There’s no counter-point to unused Plan B theories and we’ll have to see the team Howe puts out on Wednesday at Old Trafford to best understand his thinking about the Wolves trip. As a complete guess I’d expect to see Dummett, Livramento, Targett and Willock start the match. I’m guessing but there will be spaces for Ritchie and possibly Krafth on the bench at least. I’m hardly making bold predictions really.
We’ll have to take some first team regulars and have them ready if things start going tits up I’d imagine.
In terms of the summer recruitment it is far too premature to judge whether it has been a success or not. If anyone could have foreseen what was going to happen to Barnes and Tonali then please let me have next week’s lottery numbers. If Hall and Livramento are still playing second fiddle to Burn and Trippier in 12-months time then I’d expect questions to be asked. Barnes didn’t get injured on purpose and whilst I agree with all of the support Tonali is receiving, when he does return, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to underline he owes us big time.
When the draw was made for this game I was reasonably confident we could go to Manchester and have a right go but subsequent injuries and Tonali’s absence have dented that confidence. On the flip side, this is a Manchester United in name only and although we’ll not have a side out of the quality of Man City as per their derby chasing on Sunday gone, we are capable of going there and giving them a challenge.
One thing is for certain and that is we will have a big old school style away end at old Trafford and it will be Geordie noise that fills the Manchester air. The support will not be found wanting. How often United can rely upon this kind of travelling support remains to be seen given an apparent antipathy towards the legacy fans which remain the heart and soul of Newcastle United.
I joked to a pal at Man City (a) that one day our away ends would be filled with the friends of Box Office staff, sponsors, tourists, corporate customers and rosy-cheeked You Tubers breathlessly telling us how amazing everything is. Oh and empty seats for reasons completely the responsibility of those who don’t understand the laws of unintended consequences. That joke appears to be coming to life unfortunately as regular away travellers attest.
Arsenal will follow and thereafter, off we go to Germany for our second Champions League trip to Dortmund with something to prove.
I’m one for taking a breath at these points and just reflecting on how things have changed for us in such a short space of time. These huge fixtures fill us with excitement, aye and a little trepidation. But mainly it is a thrill to be playing at this level and with the hope and expectation there is around United. This is what we were denied for so long on Ashley’s watch (and let’s be honest, the dying embers of the Hall-Shepherd regime was hardly a thrill a minute either) so my advice (as if you need it) is just to absorb it and log it into your memory banks.
We’ve had a few bumps in the road this season but there’s full confidence in Howe to manage what he has to its full potential. United will not toss the game off as it might have done in the days of Ashley and nor should it – we need to win a trophy and I make no apologies for that despite all the rationale for prioritising re-qualifying for the Champions League. I want that day in the sunshine before I shuffle off this mortal coil.
Have a great week, safe journeys to those travelling to Manchester and let’s give our all at Old Trafford and at St James’ Park when title pretenders Arsenal come to town – we owe them from last season.
Keep On, Keepin’ On …
Michael Martin, @TFMick1892