Ahead of the 2023/24 Premier League season, Alex Keble takes an in-depth look at each of the 20 clubs.
Everything is going according to plan. These are euphoric times for Newcastle, back in the UEFA Champions League after a 20-year absence and eagerly anticipating the next phase of an Eddie Howe revolution.
Another nine-figure transfer spend this summer has bolstered the squad ahead of Newcastle’s European adventure, and there are high hopes that a first major trophy since 1969 could be on the cards.
But the next step will be the hardest yet. Newcastle’s top-four finish came well ahead of schedule and, with rivals strengthening significantly, they face an uphill task holding on to Champions League football as the economic realities of financial fair play regulations begin to bite.
Taking Newcastle from relegation candidates to the top four was a magnificent achievement, yet it is arguably the simplest part of building a super-club. Maintaining that level, or indeed rising further, is a huge challenge for 2023/24.
Performance last season
|FA Cup||Third round|
PL performance last five seasons
How to improve on 2022/23
For all their progress, Newcastle’s form dipped after Christmas. They came seventh in the Premier League table taken from 30 December onwards, taking 38 points from 22 matches. This suggests Howe must add variety and depth to his squad to avoid a similar drop-off in 2023/24.
Howe has already spoken of the need to be “flexible” this season after trialling a new 3-4-3 formation in their Premier League Summer Series match against Aston Villa, and indeed a tactical shift will be needed if Newcastle are to avoid a slight regression.
There are plenty of reasons to assume Newcastle can get better, then, and optimistic fans will point out that the gap between the Magpies and last year’s champions Manchester City was surprisingly small.
Newcastle lost only five Premier League matches and finished 18 points behind City. That’s the equivalent of turning nine of those draws into wins, or, to put it another way, finding a mere nine more goals in specific moments. Are they really that close?
Fans might have hoped for a few more signings, but Newcastle are not able to elbow their way to the top like Man City or Chelsea did before them.
Howe’s football is a halfway house between the conservative counter-attacking football that had been the hallmark of Newcastle over the last decade and the possession-dominating style one assumes the club will want to inhabit in the future.
He believes in quick transitions; in laying pressing traps in central midfield that create turnovers from which Newcastle’s forwards can burst into life. They recorded the second-most “direct attacks” in the Premier League last season, with 92.
Tonali will help with the defensive part of this tactic and Barnes with the attacking phase, yet Howe needs to ensure Newcastle develop their football further.
The main reason for their declining form in 2023 was opponents working out how to nullify those set moves.
Reasons to cheer
Champions League football is reason enough, as is the wider perception that Newcastle are a team on the up. Not many clubs get to bask in this feeling and if their excellent defensive record holds, they can repeat the feat. Only Man City matched Newcastle’s 33 goals conceded last season.
There are high hopes that Elliot Anderson, who scored four goals in pre-season, will make his breakthrough in 2023/24. Indeed the 20-year-old midfielder is in line to start Newcastle’s opener against Villa.
Reasons to fear
Newcastle’s main concern is the competition. Villa won more points than Newcastle in the period since Unai Emery’s appointment. Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea both expect to improve with new managers at the helm, and Liverpool, who won both league meetings against Newcastle last season, ended 2022/23 strongly.
Opening six matches
Howe will curse his luck. Villa at home in the opener is a chance for Emery’s side to lay down a marker, before Newcastle play Man City (A), Liverpool (H), and Brighton & Hove Albion (A) in a tough start to the season.
Predicted XI v Aston Villa
4-3-3: Pope; Trippier, Schar, Botman, Burn; Tonali, Guimaraes, Anderson; Almiron, Isak, Barnes.
Next: Nottingham Forest