The Magpies balance hope, Europe, and squad depth with an exciting start to the season

Newcastle look to juggle their return to Europe with the ever-intense Premier League battle.

Isaac Sands
19th October 2023
Image: Twitter @NUFC
After scoring just three points in the first month of Newcastle’s 2023/24 Premier League campaign, there were some murmurs from parts of the footballing world about whether Eddie Howe was really the right man to deliver the high expectations of the coming season.

The Magpies' surprising run in 2022/23 looks, from the outside, hard to replicate, particularly with the added pressures of midweek European football alongside a distinct lack of top-quality depth in the squad to go alongside the brutal schedule, a demand that managers Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola appear to persistently complain about.

Newcastle’s Carabao Cup upset and victory against Manchester City presents another potential cup run, meaning more fixtures for Howe to manage and balance player fitness as the Toon army’s belief raises what appears to be an all-time high. A somewhat weakened team went up against, and beat, the European champions of Manchester City with standout performances from the pre-takeover centre-back duo Paul Dummet and Jamaal Lascelles putting in a rough and ready defensive performance that showed glimpses of the elite Championship football played under Rafa Benitez.

Just a week after an impressive performance in the Carabao Cup, St James’ Park welcomed the return of European football for the first time in 20 years against the star-studded Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain. Kylian Mbappe, Ousmane Dembele, and Goncalo Ramos led the line for PSG, and after a somewhat nervy start for United with Dembele shooting just wide a stunning volley in the early minutes in front of the Gallowgate, Newcastle put themselves 3-0 up just after half-time. Goals from Miguel Almiron, Alexander Isak, Sean Longstaff and Dan Burn meant the match was won 4-1, creating memories for Newcastle fans that they would have never believed had you interrupted their incredible pre-match chorus on the concourse on Wednesday night.

Even with all of these incredible wins, Newcastle United fans must remain realistic in terms of achievements and potential silverware. It is becoming increasingly evident that with mounting injuries, and essential rest for players, the depth of the squad required to succeed is still not there. The United bench against PSG was mediocre at best. Yes, there was some great emerging young talent on show, but still insufficient quality to significantly impact the game had Alexander Isak’s head injury in the first half resulted in an unavoidable substitution.

The investment in players has clearly been there in the summer transfer window and Newcastle look like a team ready to challenge for silverware of some kind this season. However, whether or not the Magpies will have too much on their plate to deal with their competing demands can only be medicined by several strong rotation signings in the next transfer window, although that may be too little too late for any sort of successful European run this year. The city will have to just wait and see.

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