Despite their mega-money takeover from the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund 12 months ago, with Sports Direct mogul Mike Ashley selling the club to the consortium fronted by Prince Mohammed for £300 million, Newcastle United are arguably outdoing themselves in the Premier League so far this season.
Can Newcastle United keep up top four charge after the World Cup?
Indeed, the new owners have already invested more than £180m in the squad over the last two transfer windows — bringing in the likes of Bruno Guimaraes, Kieran Trippier, Sven Botman and club record signing Alexander Isak. But the consensus was that it would take a few more seasons and plenty more cash before the Magpies could compete for the top four and the promised land of Champions League football.
However, Eddie Howe’s men are already proving to be thorn in the side of the English top flight’s tradition big six and are beginning to look like a shoo in for one of those lucrative top four places despite being an outsider in the odds on the Premier League back at the start of the 2022/23 season.
With the unprecedented break in the middle of the season for the Qatar World Cup looming, the Geordies are currently occupying fourth place at the time of writing and will be hoping to stay there throughout the month-long stoppage by keeping up this fantastic run of form that they are enjoying at the moment.
Newcastle have lost just once this season, with Fabio Carvalho scoring for Liverpool in the 98th minute at Anfield back in gameweek two, and are currently on a run of four wins in their last five matches — including a 2-1 victory over Tottenham Hotspur in London. They also boast the best defence in the league, conceding just 10 goals after 13 games, while Nick Pope has kept the joint-most clean sheets alongside Manchester City’s Ederson (6).
Two victories in their final couple of fixtures before the World Cup, when they travel to strugglers Southampton before hosting Chelsea at St. James’ Park, will firm up their place in the top four and give them plenty to fight for when the season resumes on Boxing Day — when they visit the King Power Stadium for a clash with current relegation zoners Leicester City.
While it’s good news for Howe that most of his squad won’t be travelling to the Middle East, there are a few players going to Qatar that he will be hoping can avoid picking up injuries. Nick Pope and Kieran Trippier will both likely make the England squad, but the former is unlikely to feature much, while fellow regulars Fabian Schar and Guimaraes will likely be called upon by Switzerland and Brazil respectively.
It is the Samba star Howe might worry about the most. The central midfielder has performed fantastically since signing from Lyon in January, but his fitness will potentially be tested as he is a regular feature for Brazil — who are expected to go all the way and win the tournament on December 18, just a week before the Premier League resumes.
WINDOW OF OPPORTUNITY
It will be harsh both physically and mentally for all players with the incredibly quick turn arounds, but if Howe can get everybody back in tip-top shape then they should be able to pick up where they left off — while he can continue to work with the core of his squad on the training pitch throughout the hiatus.
With the winter transfer window opening just days after the resumption of the Premier League as well, you can almost guarantee Howe will be given whatever funds he needs to improve his squad further ahead of the second half of the season — which will be another big advantage.
Can Newcastle seal one of the top four places? Well, they have been one of the divisions in-form teams since the takeover and look like they can be there or thereabouts in May. But only time will tell if they can keep up with the competition as the season begins to string out.