A year ago, Newcastle had just won their first league game of the season and sat 19th. This time around, Eddie Howe’s side have lost just once all season, have just beaten title challengers Tottenham Hotspur, and sit fourth in the table above the likes of Chelsea, Manchester United and Liverpool. This remarkable turnaround follows their very public takeover by new Saudi owners just under a year ago. In that time, Steve Bruce left the club to be replaced by current boss Howe, and the club have a net spend of over £100 million. The team is now unrecognizable – and as a result, they may just find themselves playing in the Champions League next season.
It may seem a bit early to make this call, but there is good reason to believe I may not be being too hasty in my thoughts here. Newcastle has the most points at this point in the season in over a decade, and have not exactly played an easy schedule to date. Around a third of the way through the season, they have played Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool and Tottenham: all members of the traditional top four, and considered to be far superior squads to Newcastle. Yet the Magpies have taken five points from those games, all of which were away matches. They beat Tottenham convincingly away this past weekend, stopped an in-form United side from scoring in a 0-0 draw at Old Trafford, scored three and managed to secure a point away against Manchester City and their juggernaut of a striker in Erling Haaland, and were extremely hard done by at Anfield against Liverpool as they were scored on in the 99th minute of play after the referee had indicated there would only be five minutes of added time at the end of the second half. They have also scored three or more goals three times already this season, and have conceded more than one goal on just two occasions in the league. These performances have left them with only the one league loss, tied for the best such record in the Premier League with leaders Arsenal.
But perhaps the most impressive part of the coaching job Eddie Howe has done is turn very mediocre players into great players. Miguel Almiron has scored six Premier League goals so far this season, including five in his last five games. Prior to this season, he had a total of nine in his entire career in England. He looks reborn as a player, as does Dan Burn. An unwanted piece of a very porous Brighton and Hove Albion defense just two seasons ago, he looks like one of the best defenders in the league alongside his new partner, Sven Botman. And they aren’t the only ones performing to a level they’ve never hit before, either. Callum Wilson’s scoring rate is way up on past seasons since he has been given a manager with real attacking ambitions for the first time, Nick Pope is imperious in goals and Bruno Guimaraes looks unbeatable. The latter of the three played the Spurs midfield off the park on Saturday, only to admit after the match that he hadn’t slept in 72 hours as a result of the birth of his son.
That’s the thing with this Newcastle team: there doesn’t seem to be anything capable of shutting down their confidence in their ability to beat any team on any day. No matter the opponents, the conditions, or the location, the entire atmosphere around the club has done a complete 180 since Mike Ashley finally sold the club last year. What this means is that even on bad days, when the chances just aren’t going in like they normally do, this team can find a way to grind out results. That is why I believe they may shock the league and make it into the Champions League for next season. Guimaraes is still giving opponents nightmares despite not being able to sleep, Almiron has gone supernova, Kieran Trippier is playing like he’s in his prime again despite being well into his 30s and the defense is the meanest in the land. And on top of this, new superstar signing Alexander Isak hasn’t even been able to get fully going yet due to a string of injuries. When he returns, everyone else in the league best lookout, because the Magpies are in full flight.