Newcastle United 2022/23: The Eddie Howe project – data analysis
With the transfer window being the biggest talk of men’s football at the moment, it is essential to get a clear look at some of the teams’ spending big money in this window. Aside from the top teams in Europe, Eddie Howe is preparing for his first full season with Newcastle United, backed by Saudi Arabian owners to completely revamp their squad and turn a mid-table team into a European contender.
This piece will be a data analysis using data and other statistics to dive into the Eddie Howe project, revisiting his success at the end of the 2021/22 season. It will then be an analysis, looking ahead to next season with potential and completed signings aiming to improve this previously broken club.
Instant Eddie Howe effect
The Magpies appointed Eddie Howe on 8th November 2021 after just eleven matches had been played in the Premier League. When the Englishman replaced Steve Bruce, Newcastle sat 19th in the table with only five points and no wins. It was clear it was going to be a big challenge for anybody to turn this club around, but backed by the current owners, Eddie Howe looked to invest quickly and rebuild his squad.
In his first transfer window, Howe strengthened the core of the team and initially looked for some experienced Premier League players from mid-table teams. With the introductions of Dan Burn, Bruno Guimarães, Kieran Trippier, Chris Wood and Matt Targett, Newcastle were able to turn around their season and looked to be a completely new team. Howe finished the season with the Magpies in 11th place on 49 points, completely clear of safety. The effect the ex-Bournemouth manager had on the team was incredible, with the points per game of 1.63 from the 11th game week, putting Newcastle in sixth place if this was during the whole season.
Eddie Howe has already shown by his previous 17 matches that he has the capability to make Newcastle a European team and that he can effectively use transfer windows to improve his squad. Even though he has already made a few great transfers, it doesn’t mean that he has completed his rebuild. There are still areas that can, and must, be improved to ensure he continues his points per game from last year.
Areas for improvement
It is clear when looking at Newcastle United’s squad that they do not have the depth of the other teams fighting for European football. This is crucial in a season that has the World Cup right in the middle and especially as Newcastle have already seen injuries to Callum Wilson and Kieran Trippier last season.
Increasing squad depth is important but it will come with time, and money (which Newcastle have lots of) and it will be increased as they improve the starting eleven. The three main areas for Howe to focus upon are the attack, defence and the implementation of his playing style across the two. Eddie Howe did instantly improve the Magpies’ goals conceded per 90 by 0.77 with the introduction of Trippier, Targett and especially Burn who was a huge influence on their defensive stability. Along with the defensive record, Howe did improve the goals scored per 90 to 1.16, although that is only 0.1 more than the pre-Howe days.
Improving the attack and defence is something every club will want, but Newcastle, and particularly Howe, has the capability of bringing in big names to create the squad he wants. Improving the strike force for Newcastle is important as they are averaging lower than the team in the top eight of the table, even if they had started the season from game-week eleven.
Eddie Howe bought Chris Wood for £27.0 million from Burnley in the Winter, but the target man has not hit the ground running for The Magpies, scoring 2 goals and only 5 for the whole season. Along with the New Zealander, Newcastle already have Callum Wilson who, when he is fit, is above average in the league for NPG per 90 with 0.37.
The successful attacking purchase by Eddie Howe was getting their 24-year-old Brazilian Bruno Guimarães for £37.89 million. The central attacking midfielder has been involved in a goal every 3 matches, with 5 goals in his 17 matches. Just counting non-penalty goals the Brazilian has 1 more non-penalty goal than Chris Wood in the entire Premier League season last year.
From the English manager’s defensive reinforcements during the winter transfer window, his improvements in defence were not as obvious. Having spent just £27.0 million for both Kieran Trippier and Dan Burn (which was impressive by the 44-year-old) plus getting Targett on loan from Villa, he had almost completely replaced the old back four.
As previously shown, he reduced their goals per game to 1.41, which if it was counted for the 38 matches, they would have finished with only 54 goals conceded, although this still isn’t impressive enough to compensate for their lack of scoring threat. With this in mind, Eddie Howe has already purchased Sven Botman from Lille for £35 million, Nick Pope from Burnley for £10 million and signing Targett permanently for £15 million. Putting all of Eddie Howe’s signings since his arrival into a 4-3-3 formation, which Eddie Howe has set up within 19 of his 27 matches (70.4%), it is clear that he has prioritised defensive stability as a foundation for his rebuild.
With already three signings complete and potentially a few more coming in, it is important to see who will be the most beneficial linked players to improve the squad after the recent purchase of Sven Botman and Nick Pope.
Eddie Howe has already been very busy this window and is going to want to get his rebuild started as soon as possible. This window will aim to build a strong starting eleven while ensuring there are cheap backups to provide depth during the long World Cup season ahead. To first see who would be best suited to Newcastle, it is important to take into account The Magpies are the second oldest team from last season with an average age of 28.1.
As you can see, the ages of the Newcastle United current squad are at peak or past their peak age, along with the signings from Eddie Howe which favoured him bringing in experience to escape relegation over starting his long-haul rebuild.
Stikers – Hugo Ekitike; Dominic Calvert-Lewin; Victor Osimhen
Wingers / Wide midfielders – Jack Harrison; Raphinha; Moussa Diaby; Yannick Carrasco; Nicolas Pépé
Central midfielders – Fabian Ruiz; Lucas Paqueta
Defenders – Eric Bailly; Nathan Ake; Gerzino Nyamsi; William Saliba; Charlie McArthur
Goalkeeper – Alphonse Areola
The two main areas in which Newcastle will need to strengthen is with a winger and centre forward to fill the gaps in the team where Eddie Howe is lacking in quality. Newcastle do also have a lack of quality in the midfield, but with Joelinton being converted to a midfielder in Eddie Howe’s system and with other midfielders in the team, it is more important to look at replacing the potential departures from the squad for next season.
With a huge amount of Newcastle’s current focus upon Ekitike from Reims, the centre-forward position is where this transfer comparison will start. Among the three most likely candidates for Newcastle to buy, they have been compared below.
Hugo Ekitike – at only 20, the striker topped his comparators in goals per 90, with 0.62 displaying to The Magpies that when it comes to his finishing ability, he is second to none. The Frenchman is 0.14 over his xG for the season with 10 goals to his name, this is something that will draw Newcastle in as he has the most goals per 90 with the least shots per 90 with him playing into the likelihood of Newcastle not having floods of shots per match. He has only had one season in Ligue 1 so there is still some uncertainty about whether he can replicate this year on year.
Calvert-Lewin – would be an interesting choice considering how similar he is to Chris Wood with his target man playstyle and the ability to score both aerially and in and around the box. Compared to the other rumours he is the only one with experience in the Premier League and with clear evidence that he can consistently score in the English league. He has the highest assists per 90 with 0.13 and will be a great link if Eddie Howe looks for two target man strikers.
Victor Osimhen – Osimhen has a very similar goal per 90 stat with 0.6, however, Osimhen has been consistently performing highly for Serie A side Napoli and has experience when it comes to European competitions. The playstyle of Osimhen is very similar to Ekitike but with his experience at just the age of 23, it is no wonder his market value is around £58.50 million over £20 million more than the Reims striker.
With it likely for Newcastle United to lose one or more of their wingers in the summer window, they must plan ahead and look to strengthen the squad while replenishing their funding with departures for players not in Eddie Howe’s plans.
Jack Harrison – is most likely going to be the cheapest option for Newcastle, with a market value of £16.20 million, as the Englishman looks to leave Leeds United ahead of next season. For the majority of statistics in comparison to the other wingers in the list, he ranked the lowest in 63% of the areas, however, this is very much down to his playstyle. The Leeds man prefers to take on the opposition for a cut inside with a shot or a cross into the box, he is highly effective at this type of football and could be a great asset to go with Chris Wood if Eddie Howe looks to play this way next season.
Raphinha – plays completely differently from his teammate with the Brazilian preferring to create and score chances to put the balls in dangerous areas. Raphinha has been sensational for Leeds in the Premier League and has shown his quality to single handily turn games around. He is a creative spark that could be a good quality signing to provide more goalscoring opportunities to any strikers, even if Raphinha prefers to go for goal himself with his 0.32 goals per 90, the highest of any of the other wingers on the list. There has been lots of interest from Chelsea for the Leeds players and it will be difficult to sway him from Stamford Bridge if the club are happy to sell the winger.
Moussa Diaby – has lots of matches under his belt in European competitions and is always at the top of the charts for goal creation in the Bundesliga. The 22-year-old doesn’t have a lot of international caps but his statistics display the kind of quality Newcastle United will need to contend for European football, with 0.3 goals per 90 and 0.35 assists per 90 and his raw pace as he is one of the fastest players in the Bundesliga.
Yannick Carrasco – is the player most suited to the initial phase of chance creation as he is in a very structured Atletico Madrid team. The Belgian loves to take on his opponent and tops the list with his 7.42 dribbles per 90 and his 3.36 progressive runs per 90. He is the most experienced player when it comes to international and European football, however, he is the oldest player on the list at 28 years of age and may be more of a medium-term player for the rebuild.
Nicolas Pépé – has struggled to cement his place within Arteta’s Arsenal side with his last start on 18 October 2021. The numbers though for the 2021/22 season are very impressive and set him apart from the other names on the list, in that regard. He may not have the European appearances of the other players but he does have international experience and has already had two seasons in the Premier League with Arsenal. The 27-year-old has a market value of only £22.5 million which may make him an inexpensive alternative to the other players on the list, but his lack of game time in another European contender and his age may make Newcastle look elsewhere on the list.
There are lots of options for Eddie Howe with the backing from the new owners, especially when it comes to transfers. Many alternative options have not been discussed within this article but all of the main targets known by the media for Newcastle United have been looked at in the weakest positions. The decisions will come down to how long Eddie Howe plans to take to get his first European spot and whether this is using the same game plan from last season.