Newcastle’s Eddie Howe fears squad numbers ahead of Everton fight
Newcastle United is circling the wagons for its relegation battle, and Monday’s draw with visiting Manchester United at St. James’ Park finds the team and its coach backing each other through injuries and a bad spot on the table.
Newcastle’s 11 points are two back of safety but they are the only club outside the top four to play 19 games, and most have played at least two fewer than the Magpies.
But Eddie Howe and Co. know they would’ve taken three points from their top-four chasing visitors on Monday if David De Gea didn’t pull out some remarkable saves amongst his seven stops.
“We deserved to win,” Howe said. “The lads executed the game plan brilliant again tonight. We had to be very good in midfield, our lines tight between midfield and defense. A lot of questions about us defensively in recent weeks but tonight I thought we were really good. How De Gea saved it at the end, I don’t know. I was right behind it and I thought it was in.”
But the positives, including another strong showing from Joelinton in midfield, are weighed down a bit by injuries to Callum Wilson and goal scorer Allan Saint-Maximin.
Howe is hopeful that the latter will be available soon, but fears worse when it comes to Wilson. He also fears player availability for Thursday’s match against Everton, as the thin Magpies were already without Federico Fernandez, Isaac Hayden, and Paul Dummett. Also, Jonjo Shelvey, Javier Manquillo, and Emil Krafth fought through injuries to play 90 minutes and two of the available subs -- Elliot Anderson and Joe White -- were very green. Two others were goalkeepers.
“I thought when Callum went down it could be a bad one because there was no one around him,” Howe said. “Allan, I don’t think it’s serious but it was serious enough to take him off the pitch. We are stretched. ... It’s 13 plus a goalkeeper and we’re going to be dangerously close to that number.”
This is a huge stretch for Newcastle after a brutal run of fixtures. The Magpies visit Everton and Southampton before an FA Cup visit from Cambridge United. Watford, Leeds, Everton again, and Aston Villa follow and Newcastle needs to be thinking about 12-14 points from that run.
That’s a lot for a one-win team, but the transfer window will be open, too. And Newcastle’s Monday showing against a decent Man United might make it look like a more attractive situation for targets than it did before the Festive Fixtures started earlier this month.