It would be like a doctor ditching his trusty stethoscope, but we get word that Eddie Howe is considering a formation change at Arsenal this weekend.
We have been told that lately a 3-5-2 system has been talked about and worked on in training. It would still take a big leap for Howe if he didn’t start in the 4-3-3 he has used in every game so far this season, but the assignment at Arsenal could well lend itself to an adjustment.
Tino Livramento would probably come in, but not at the expense of Dan Burn, who would move to a three-man backline. Full-backs like Livramento and Kieran Trippier would offer better protection against Arsenal’s full-backs.
Although Alexander Isak and Joe Willock returned to training this week, the expectation was that they would be used from the bench, although Isak was being considered to start on Friday.
Either way, his availability could well influence Howe’s thinking: is it worth trying to contain Arsenal with a more solid, compact 3-5-2 before introducing a potential match-winner late in the game? For once, the coach has options.
Eddie Howe considering changing formation for Newcastle’s trip to Arsenal this weekend
The Magpies could change to five defenders when they travel to face Mikel Arteta’s team in the Emirates
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The names in the picture to replace Dan Ashworth
On the topic of change, I spoke in our Mail Sport video on YouTube last Thursday about Newcastle redefining the tenure of their sporting director in the wake of Dan Ashworth’s likely defection to Manchester United.
Those rumors persist and, when it comes to recruiting, it could well be that the next appointment comes with the understanding that scouting and targeting is done by others.
It is a frustration to some, even bewilderment, when Newcastle’s signings are listed as Ashworth’s. In truth, he saw deals across the line, but the scouting of players and the final decision on signing were with others.
Steve Nickson, the head recruiter, is highly respected by the owners and takes on many of the tasks sometimes mistakenly thought to be the job of an athletic director or director of football.
Howe, meanwhile, is heavily involved in recruitment, perhaps more so than any other Premier League manager. He does not wait for players to be hired and will never limit himself to the role of “head coach.” Howe is in everything and takes responsibility for each player brought in.
That being the case, there is no need for Newcastle to hire a sporting director who is seen as a transfer guru; that, it is suspected, would only lead to internal conflict. Lessons will be learned about the entire position from Ashworth’s 20-month tenure and sources say the job description is likely to be redrafted.
Many names have been mentioned in recent days as a possible replacement for Ashworth (none of them coming from within the club, I might add), but two we find interesting are Brentford pair Lee Dykes and Phil Giles.
Dan Ashworth defects from Newcastle to become Man United’s new sporting director
The latter is a Newcastle fan and is the current sporting director of Brentford, while Dykes is the club’s technical director.
For now, however, a combination of Howe, Nickson, chief executive Darren Eales and owners Amanda Staveley and Mehrdad Ghodoussi will fill the void left by Ashworth’s impending departure.
Magpies drive away a plague of rats
Speaking of outings, I can reveal that Newcastle have chased down a rat infestation at St James’ Park.
When work began on the new fan zone behind the Gallowgate End last month it disturbed rodents, who entered the stadium for a time. Rats roamed the stands after the game looking for scraps of food.
However, ground staff acted quickly and specialists were brought in to fix the problem, which has now been resolved.
Meanwhile, I understand the fan zone is on track to be completed in time to show England’s matches at Euro 2024 this summer, with the remote possibility of it being open for the pre-tournament friendly against Bosnia at St James’ ‘Park on June 3.
Newcastle ground staff have successfully chased away a rat infestation at St James’ Park
The Pope is close to returning from shoulder surgery
Nick Pope could feature in up to the final 10 games of Newcastle’s Premier League season, plus a possible FA Cup semi-final and final.
I can reveal that the goalkeeper, out since December due to shoulder surgery, suffered a minor setback to a pectoral muscle in January, but that has not affected his return date, which has in fact been brought forward.
If all goes well, Pope will be back in action in late March or early April, and that could mean 10 league games (if Newcastle progress to the FA Cup quarter-finals, their next home game against Crystal Palace will be delayed). back).
This would also give the 31-year-old enough time to prove himself to Gareth Southgate ahead of Euro 2024.
Nick Pope could play until Newcastle’s final 10 games of the Premier League season
The England star has been sidelined since December following shoulder surgery due to an injury.
Meanwhile, I understand Elliot Anderson is back on the pitch at Newcastle’s training ground, but is more likely to return to play after the international break in March. He is recovering from a stress fracture in his back and will not be rushed.
It could be that he plays an under-21 game before returning to the senior level, and there are some who believe it would be a smart decision, given that others have broken down or suffered a recurrence of injuries this season.
Howe’s Coffee Complains
Howe didn’t like having his press conference interrupted Friday morning. Not by a journalist’s cell phone, but by a coffee machine that he decided it was time to reheat (or whatever that loud noise indicates).
The Toon boss gave the machine a look of utter contempt, and a colleague of mine duly acted and ran to get the plug. You could say that a cold stare leads to a cold coffee.
However, it reminded me to always set my cell phone to airplane mode.
The Newcastle manager was not pleased that his press conference was interrupted on Friday morning.
Newcastle players surprise Howe with darts visit
The manager was on better form (I think!) when he admitted he had no idea a group of his players went to watch Luke Littler play Premier League Darts on Thursday night.
Dan Burn, Sean Longstaff, Harvey Barnes, Mark Gillespie, Paul Dummett, Elliot Anderson and Matt Targett were present at Newcastle’s Utilita Arena.
Howe said: ‘I wasn’t aware of that, so, erm… you’ll have to give me a list of names, please. I wish it wasn’t late at night? Maybe they should have been in costume!’
When Howe does some digging into the team’s night out (I have no doubt he will), he’ll be relieved to see his table littered with empty bottles…water bottles, that is.
Howe had no idea a group of his players went to watch Luke Littler play Premier League darts.
To finish, here’s a little riddle posed to us by a member of Newcastle staff ahead of Friday’s media call.
Thirty-three players have taken penalties for Newcastle in the Premier League. Only four of them have never scored for Newcastle from the penalty spot. Name the four.
The answer will be revealed on Friday at 6 pm on our new WhatsApp channel dedicated to NUFC.
It’s free and available. HERE.