When Eddie Howe was appointed as the new Newcastle United manager following Steve Bruce’s sacking, many in the media said we’d taken a huge risk.
Some pundits stated that we’d replaced a “safe pair of hands” in Bruce with a man who might not be up to it after his last act in football was relegation at Bournemouth.
Several months later, you only need a pair of eyes to see the difference. We are suddenly a side with identity, togetherness and vastly improved fitness levels, with us looking so much more confident and competent at both ends of the field.
Then you look at the stats. Not only have we gone from rock bottom and winless to 14th, unbeaten in seven and four clear of the drop zone, there are two incredible stats that emerged over the weekend following our 2-0 win at Brentford:
1. All in the same season, Newcastle United have gone on their longest Premier League winless run and longest Premier League unbeaten run in over a decade.
2. In 2021, Newcastle United conceded more goals than anyone else in the Premier League. In 2022, we’ve conceded the fewest.
Starting with stat number one, it is no coincidence that our longest winless run came under Steve Bruce, while our longest unbeaten run in over 10 years has happened shortly after Howe took the job.
Yes, we strengthened in January and have received a huge lift – both on and off the pitch – since the Saudi-backed takeover went through, but we’ve spent a large portion of his seven-game unbeaten run without the likes of Wilson, Saint-Maximin, Trippier and Guimaraes. It’s been a team effort every step of the way and a run born out of the newfound confidence, consistency, spirit and organisation that now exists within this team.
As for the second stat, the number speaks for themselves. When Steve Bruce left his role, the statistics said we had the worst defence in the Premier League.
Based on our start to 2022, no Premier League team is conceding fewer goals. In fact, we have the joint best defence in the top four tiers of English football since the turn of the year!
We are creating chances at one end, looking stronger in midfield than we have done in a long time and are defending so well that Martin Dubravka has rarely been called upon in recent games.
This new-look Newcastle United is a joy to watch and long may it continue!