The Guardian writers’ predicted position: 7. (NB: This is not necessarily Louise Taylor’s prediction, but the average of our writers’ picks)
Placement last season: 11
Odds on the championship title (via Oddschecker): 100-1
Pretty good. Under Eddie Howe’s intelligent management, Newcastle were a team in flux in the second half of last season and there’s no reason why they shouldn’t continue that upward trend.
Although the Saudi-led takeover has made them the wealthiest club in the world on paper, the owners are determined to spend wisely and aware of the need to comply with financial fair play rules. In other words, Howe’s reconstruction work is likely to be a case of evolution rather than revolution.
While on-field signings seem appropriate, the appointment of former FA and Brighton technical director Dan Ashworth as director of football and Darren Eales as chief executive looks wise. Eales, a law graduate from Cambridge with experience at West Brom and Tottenham, comes from MLS club Atlanta, where he was much admired. Her appointments give co-owner and director Amanda Staveley, who has led the club superbly over the past season, more time to focus on broader projects.
Howe seems to have shopped well so far this summer, with coveted and notably left-footed centre-back Sven Botman hailing from Lille, England goalkeeper Nick Pope signed from Burnley and Matt Targett, who has been so quietly impressive of late as a left-back is season and made his move from Aston Villa permanent. Howe remain on the lookout for another striker and a new midfielder but already has plenty of talent and an outstanding leader in right-back Kieran Trippier.
Hopes are high that Brazilian Bruno Guimarães, who was bought by Lyon in January, will continue to shine in midfield but his manager will have to decide whether to join Botman with Dan Burn, Fabian Schär or Jamaal Lascelles. Howe is also having to convince the talented but sometimes frustrating Allan Saint-Maximin to be more consistent while he hopes his injury-prone centre-forward Callum Wilson stays fit and Joe Willock begins to fulfill his potential.
Howe was so successful at St James’ Park that Newcastle fans are likely to believe he’s capable of walking the River Tyne. Club executives shudder slightly as they remember Unai Emery was originally their first choice to replace Steve Bruce and the former Bournemouth manager was merely a backstop option.
Credited with being the first obsessive a-ha fan – “I want other people to hear what I hear” – at the helm of Newcastle, Howe is evangelical about a band he’s followed since the 1980s. Tactically astute and emotionally intelligent, he has made a huge impression, converting previously underperformers like Schär and the seemingly reincarnated Joelinton. The 44-year-old describes himself as “a bit shy and introverted” and spent part of his sabbatical to Bournemouth “digitalizing my training sessions”. Howe took a fortnight off this summer to cruise down the West Coast of the United States with his wife and three sons and is dedicating his free time to moving his family to a new home in Tyneside.
Botman. Technical and physically impressive, the left-footed 22-year-old centre-back, who joined Tyneside from Lille for £35million, is seen as a significant coup, especially as Serie A champions Milan, among others, were desperate for Botman’s signature. After starting his career at Ajax academy, Botman has joined the Netherlands senior team for training camps and is believed to be on the verge of winning his first cap.
Impact on the World Cup
Trippier is keen to be part of Gareth Southgate’s squad and assuming he remains fit it would be a surprise if Howe’s first signing were to miss out. Wilson has a case for inclusion in England’s attacking ranks, but the centre-forward needs to stay out of the treatment room. Meanwhile, Guimaraes should be on the plane to Doha with Brazil. Ditto Schär and Switzerland.
Alternative attractions during the World Cup
Try a night out at the infamous Bigg Market and adjacent Quayside, but be warned, no one wears an overcoat and you won’t have street credit if you show up in anything remotely wanted. Admire Anthony Gormley’s famous Angel of the North sculpture and try to spot a resemblance to former Newcastle striker Andy Carroll. Start surfing at the nearby North Sea beaches at Tynemouth and Whitley Bay.
Management of shirt sales
Bruno Guimarães, the revered £35million Brazilian midfielder who was acquired from Lyon last January, has pushed Saint-Maximin off the top of the pecking order thanks to some top-flight performances in midfield. Thousands of hearts and minds were captured as ‘Bruno’ made his full Southampton debut by scoring the winning goal with a superb back heel volley. How Arsenal, who had been chasing Guimarães for some time, have to kick themselves for not signing him when they had the chance. Now a 24-year-old, who prefers the number 8 but can also impress as a number 6, is determined to take Howe’s side to the Champions League.
Saint-Maximin: The self-proclaimed “King of Twitter” is invariably entertaining. Post lots of gorgeous videos full of defender-dribbling dribbles, increasingly imaginative hairstyles and beautiful Mediterranean panoramas around the French winger’s holiday home in Nice. Also adept at using social media to support favorite charities and good causes.
If Netflix had made a Newcastle documentary…
Led by Sir David Attenborough, Planet Toon would detail life in a particularly peculiar parallel universe. The soundtrack would feature music from the manager’s favorite band, A-ha, and Saint-Maximin and Guimarães would compete for most airtime. A specially extended episode could focus on the team’s winter break in Jeddah and refuse to gloss over Jonjo Shelvey’s deportation after an unfortunate breach of etiquette in the company of various Saudi Arabian royalty.