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Newcastle are a before and after story. The biggest part of the before and after is the new sportswashing Saudi Arabian ownership. Along with that, however, comes the before and after of the manager they hired, Eddie Howe. Their great escape from relegation is like little the Premier League has ever seen and that's without spending significant cash in January due to Financial Fair Play concerns. Before Howe's relegation with Bournemouth in 2020, it seemed possible he could have the inside track for the next job that opened in the top six but ended up taking over a year away from coaching before Newcastle came knocking.

It was a risky move for Howe and the Magpies as they seemed set for relegation at the time, but he took them up on their offer. Newcastle was mired in the relegation zone with Norwich City and Burnley, both of whom would later be victims of the drop at the end of the season. Newcastle seemed beyond saving when Howe was appointed in November. Joint bottom of the league on only five points, they were winless in their first 11 games scoring only 12 goals while conceding the second most in the league with 24.

Howe's first match managed was a 2-0 loss to Arsenal, but the improvement could be seen immediately as the Gunners only put six shots on target compared to Newcastle's five in the match. From there, Newcastle would go on quite the tear picking up 44 under Howe to finish 11th in the Premier League. Howe's transition to a 4-3-3 and converting Joelinton to a hard-working midfielder helped solidify the defense and their place in the Premier League. It's no wonder that on the eve of the new season, Newcastle announced that they were giving their manager a fat new extension.

Transfers make the world go round

Making only modest additions, Newcastle were on pace with the top four to end the season which is why they're one of the trendy picks to crash the European party this year. Saint James' Park was rocking as the supporters could feel the magic and remember their last European appearances in the 2012-13 Europa League. In January, the Magpies made 4.5 additions in Bruno Guimaraes, Chris Wood, Dan Burn, Kieran Trippier, and Matt Targett. Trippier missed most of last season with a foot injury that he suffered in February but that didn't stop Newcastle from picking up the fourth most points in the league in 2022 with 38. 

Led by their defense only allowing 20 goals in 2022 good for the fifth-best number in the Premier League, Newcastle set a foundation for what could be a strong upcoming season. They've fleshed out the back line more adding Sven Botman, and making Matt Targett's loan move from Aston Villa permanent while acquiring Nick Pope to play behind them but Newcastle are also learning that buying goal scorers is easier said than done.

Hugo Ekitike seemed set for a move to Tyneside but PSG swooped at the last moment to secure the talented youngster's signature. For a Newcastle team that wants to make the Champions League now, they're quickly finding out that they either need to pay superior transfer fees or wages to compete with the traditional European powers and even then, teams with a  history of competing at the highest levels will likely win out. 

They're not giving up on making a statement move to accompany Guimaraes as they're now chasing James Maddison. If he made a move he'd likely man the right wing in a front three with Callum Wilson and Allan Saint-Maximin giving Newcastle an attack that can compete with West Ham and Manchester in the quest to be the best United in the Premier League. Leicester aren't caving as they demand more than the £50 million that Newcastle has offered.

If the Magpies are able to get a top attacker into the team, their prospects for Europe will rise but with Howe and a strong defense in tow, what they've done is raise their floor by making the team hard to break down. Wilson and Saint-Maximin would give the team plenty to rest on but a third goal scorer is needed sooner than later. It's just hard to do when the team has no real income because outgoings are only leaving on free transfers.

Defense means everything

Given Newcastle's setup, it's tough to see them fall below tenth in the league even if Howe's success last season was due to a sustained new manager bounce. The defense of Trippier, Botman, Burn, and Targett will be one of the better shields outside of the top six and that's while they're protecting England international Nick Pope. It may take a little from Botman to transition from Lille, especially since he'll be one of the slower center backs in the Premier League but he knows how to position himself to not be caught in situations where an attacker is at an advantage.

Good on the ball and strong in the air, Botman and Burn are a formidable pair in the middle while also offering Trippier targets for set plays. With those five at the top of their game, if the attack is average, Newcastle will be more than okay. But making Europe is likely out of their hands depending on how West Ham and Manchester United perform during the season. West Ham will need to overcome depth concerns to maintain their place in the top eight but with a slip-up Newcastle can move into a Europa Conference League place which would be s significant step forward for the team. 

With Manchester United bringing in Erik ten Hag, Howe will want to hope that the transition to a new style of play sees United slip to new lows bringing up another team that Newcastle can pass. If the seem to be on the cusp of a European place heading into the second half of the season, Newcastle not having heavy World Cup commitments could work in their favor to hit the ground running for a strong second half again. Bringing in Dan Ashworth from Brighton as the new sporting director means that they'll also be able to make more smart decisions in the transfer market moving forward. A good January signing could be the difference between a top half finish and making Europe so it wouldn't be surprising for Newcastle to be aggressive.

Howe is at the helm and the team is behind him. Everyone will just need to stay healthy. Injuries are the biggest thing that can get into Newcastle's way with Wilson, Saint-Maximin, and Trippier all missing significant time last year. If they go down again, the team could slip in the table but at full strength, Newcastle are knocking on the door of the big six and they'll be able to crash the party sooner than later.

Bold predictions

  • Premier League finish: 8th
  • Top scorer: Callum Wilson
  • Player of the season: Nick Pope
  • Something unexpected: Kieran Trippier scores more goals than assists registered.

How to watch and odds

  • Date: Saturday, Aug. 6 | Time: 10 a.m. ET
  • Location: St. James' Park -- Newcastle upon Tyne, England 
  • TV: None  | Live stream: Peacock
  • Odds: Newcastle -155; Draw +280; Nottingham Forest +450 (via Caesars Sportsbook) 
Featured Game | Newcastle United vs. Nottingham Forest