Dominant Newcastle maintain pre-World Cup momentum
Most people on Tyneside have spent the World Cup wondering how Newcastle were going to restart the season, consumed by thoughts of how Eddie Howe would maintain the momentum the team enjoyed before the enforced break.
It was not England’s narrow quarter-final defeat to France that caused concern, it was whether Newcastle would come back in the same sort of form they had been when they beat Chelsea in their previous game at St James’ Park - the last impressive result in a nine-game unbeaten run that has launched them into the Champions League places.
Newcastle supporters are dreaming of Europe and rightly so given how brilliant they have been in this calendar year, but the problem with dreams is waking up and realising that is all it was. For those of a nervous disposition, especially at a club that has made underachievement its forte for most of the last 54 years without a trophy, there is always concern that any success will fizzle out; that a fall is coming. It is the sort of thing that Eddie Howe has spent his break guarding against.
The Newcastle manager barely had a day off, spending a few days away with his family in London, before returning home to spend hour after hour analysing their forthcoming opponents in the Premier League Newcastle got things back underway with a victory over Bournemouth, but it was a difficult evening and the Magpies were not at their best, struggling in the final third to find the right pass or a clinical finish when they did create something.
It took an own goal from Adam Smith, late in the second half, to win this Carabao Cup tie and secure a quarter-final place, even if ultimately Newcastle were far too good for their visitors.
The worry is Bournemouth were set up to contain and frustrate - and it worked for long periods. They did the same when securing a deserved 1-1 draw in the league earlier in the campaign. Newcastle are still getting used to playing teams who do not open up against them. When they are asked to be patient, to move the ball around quickly and force open stubborn defences they do not look nearly as fluid or threatening. It suggests they will be asked some different sorts of questions by opposition teams now the domestic action is underway.
They will be threatened on the counter-attack far more and Bournemouth almost forced this cup tie late on when both Keiffer Moore and Dominic Solanke missed good chances in front of the Gallowgate End. Other teams will take them. “Possibly we will be asked different questions by teams,” said Howe. “But that was actually very similar to the way Bournemouth played here earlier in the season. They were deep and very compact, they didn’t give us any space to play in. But I thought we played into their hands to a degree and if we played that game again we would have to make adjustments to our game.
“That’s the beauty of football, you learn from every game. It is something we have to work on and we are trying to make sure we give the players solutions to all these things. You never know in the Premier League what you are going to get. It was up to us to break a team down today, and although I thought our patience was good, we didn’t lose sight of what we were trying to and got rewarded for that. The win gets us off on the right foot again, it gives us another game in the competition but collectively we know there is more to come from us.”
There will need to be, certainly in and around the opposition box. Newcastle missed so many chances, the worst of them a virtual open goal chance that Miguel Almiron somehow managed to kick backwards rather than into the net when unmarked at the far post.
Callum Wilson was also poor by his standards and there is a nagging suspicion he is carrying another slight injury. He had a goal ruled out when Joe Willock was in an offside position and interfering with play in the build-up, put a difficult header over the bar and blazed a volley from a corner well over the bar.
There was also some poor decision making, Sean Longstaff shooting wildly over the bar when he should have passed to either Wilson or Almiron who were in far better positions than he was after Bournemouth had gifted possession on the edge of their own area. There was also a tendency to over elaborate, making an extra pass when a cross or shot was needed. We should not be overly critical.
Newcastle won the game, have won eight of their last ten games in all competitions and are a team nobody will want to face in the quarter-finals of the Carabao Cup. Given they were second from bottom of the table and had won one game all season this time last year, the transformation remains a stunning one. We now wait to find out whether they can maintain it away at Leicester City on Boxing Day.
Newcastle United (4-3-3): Pope; Trippier, Schar, Botman, Burn; Joelinton, Bruno (Shelvey 87), S Longstaff; Almiron (Murphy 76), Wilson (Wood 76), Willock (Saint-Maximin 57)
Subs: Darlow (g), Lascelles, Ritchie, Targett, Manquillo
Bournemouth (4-4-2): Travers; Smith, Mepham, Senesi (Lowe 85), Zemura; Christie (Stacey 68), Cook, Billing, Anthony (Dembele 77); Solanke, Moore
Subs: Plain (g), Marcondes, Hill, Greenwood, Sadi, Adu-Adjei
Referee: John Brooks (Leicestershire)