While there have been a plethora of amazing storylines to come out of this Premier League season, there aren’t too many more inspiring than that of Newcastle United’s campaign. After it appeared as though the Magpies would be in a battle to avoid relegation at the halfway point of last season under Steve Bruce, United decided to relieve the manager of his duties and hire up-and-coming managerial prospect Eddie Howe to replace him.
The appointment has proven to be the right decision, as in 2022/23, United progressed to the Carabao Cup final and finished in the top four which booked their place in the Champions League for the first time in two decades. That’s a far cry from where United were predicted to finish when looking at the football bets prior to the season, with them garnering odds of 8/1 to book a top four berth – which was good for seventh favourite.
While Howe’s praise is most certainly warranted, the current group of players deserve their recognition also. Whether it be their long-serving veterans or the new signings at the club, they have shown a level of resilience, confidence and commitment that Newcastle fans have been starved of for years.
It will be the new signings we focus on in this article, as not only have they been exceptional, you could make the argument their contribution has been the foundation for their success.
Given his performances this season and the fee United managed to acquire him for, goalkeeper Nick Pope has been one of the signings of the summer across the entire league. Tied second for the most clean sheets in the ‘Prem’ this season, the 31-year-old shot-stopper has provided Newcastle with greater stability and solidity to their defensive structures.
You only have to hear how his manager speaks about Pope to understand what he has meant to this club this season.
“Nick has been an incredible signing for us, he really has. His goalkeeping has been very, very good,” he said.
“He’s been very consistent and made huge saves from day one. Against Leicester, he had nothing to do until right at the end.
“It was always going to be possibly like that. We got a bit nervy and jittery and ended up playing deep passes in and around our box and sitting off them for the first time in the game. They’re always going to get a moment, and that’s where you need your goalkeeper to keep his concentration and deliver, and Nick did again.”
Another player who has shone this season is new signing Alexander Isak. Since joining the Magpies from La Liga club Real Sociedad in the summer, the Swedish forward has made an immediate impact. With 10 goals to his name this campaign, seven of which have come since March, Isak has given the north east club a level of spark and explosiveness upfront that they had previously been lacking.
Whether it be his brilliant technical ability, composure on the ball or elite decision making beyond his years, the 23-year-old has ensured Newcastle are one of most offensively gifted teams in the Premier League today. If ownership can manage to hold on to him for the foreseeable future, expect multiple top four finishes moving forward.
Composed, calculated and assured on the ball, there are three attributes on the pitch that sum up Newcastle centre-back Sven Botman. While the Dutchman may not receive the plaudits when compared to some of his teammates upfront, his no-nonsense approach at the back has been pivotal in his side’s success.
With nearly double of his aerial battles won than lost and 11 clean sheets to his name, the 23-year-old’s reliability and overall ability to thwart opposition threats has at times been the difference between winning and losing. Again, similarly to the aforementioned Pope and Isak, Botman’s fee of £37 million is looking like a bargain.