Newcastle boss Eddie Howe is neither fazed nor surprised by the gulf between his team and the Premier League’s big guns this season.
The Magpies will head into Monday night’s home clash with Arsenal having failed to take a single point from their previous nine games against the current top five this season and with only four goals to their name in the process.
However, that is a situation he fully intends to address this summer on and off the pitch after guiding the club to top-flight safety with two games to spare.
Asked about his side’s record against the division’s big guns, Howe said: “There’s a definite gap between us and the top sides but we’re not fazed by that, we’re not surprised by that.
“That’s where we are at the moment. We have to figure out a way of being more competitive in those games and picking up points.
“There are certain games I look back on and think we should have got more, we should have done better in some moments, but that’s a learning curve for us and that’s something we’ll try to address next season.”
The success or otherwise of Newcastle’s summer recruitment drive – Howe has already warned fans not to expect massive investment after a £90million-plus January spending spree – could dictate how effective those efforts are, although the 44-year-old will set out on the next stage of his mission having successfully completed the first.
Survival was the only real objective when he took over the reins in November last year, but such is the job he and his staff and players have done since that they will approach their final two fixtures with 43 points already banked and knowing three more would represent their best total since they returned to the top flight in 2017.
Howe said: “Any target or objective that we can pass is a good thing. The most important thing for me is that we finish the season well and we’re professional right to the end and we show our best selves in the next two games.
“The previous two games have been very difficult, as we know. We’ve played two world-class teams and they’ve been difficult matches, but great for us in terms of knowing where we are and what we have to improve.
“These next two are slightly different, still very tough games, but we want to go out well this season.”