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    6 Newcastle United places up for grabs

    Eddie Howe watched on from afar as Newcastle United played out a 3-3 draw with Brentford.

    A positive covid test on Friday meaning that it was his hotel room and not the home dugout at St James Park, where the new Head Coach could see how his first match in charge went.

    You wouldn’t have minded being a fly on the wall as I reckon it would have been very interesting and informative, to see how the new team boss reacted and what he had to say, whilst in regular (constant?) contact with his backroom staff inside St James Park.

    So much happened in the game, good and bad, with Newcastle United.

    How do you think Eddie Howe saw it?

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    Well, from my vantage point in the Leazes End (where Geordies never end…), I saw a pretty even split.

    Roughly half the Newcastle United team playing good to very good, whilst the other rough half struggled.

    After that Brentford game, for me there are 6 Newcastle United places up for grabs…

    Karl Darlow

    Eddie Howe gave him the benefit of the doubt and Martin Dubravka had been on international duty, missing half the Eddie Howe training sessions, BUT after this performance it has to be the number one keeper back in.

    Ciaran Clark

    Has led a charmed life this season and somehow started 10 of the 12 PL games, including all of the last nine. Did well in the first few years for Newcastle but incredibly bad management to keep him at the club and in the first team. Really struggling and surely set to be finally left out after the latest chaotic defending we watched on Saturday.

    Jamaal Lascelles

    Took his goal well but other than that, the same comments apply to Lascelles as they did for Clark above. He is younger than Clark but with each of these seasons under Steve Bruce has got progressively worse. To compound matters, Jamaal Lascelles is captain but offers no organisational skills, as well as lacking pace and ability on the ball. Has had a good run but guessing Eddie Howe will be giving this one a lot of thought.

    Jacob Murphy

    Does a little bit going forward as a wing back but nowhere near enough to make up for his struggles when trying to defend. Like Clark, a player who should have been moved on and found a club in the Championship this summer.

    Matt Ritchie

    Like Clark and Murphy, should be now in the second tier. The failure to update / upgrade the Newcastle squad this past year or more…Newcastle United really paying for it now, especially at the back. Contributes a bit more than Murphy going forward and is a good character…but like Murphy, is a liability at the back and is targeted all the time by the opposition on Newcastle’s left hand side.

    Joe Willock

    I think there is definitely a player in there, even if not one who is capable of scoring for fun as was the case with Willock in that purple patch on loan last season. I think sure to improve now getting decent coaching from Eddie Howe but once again on Saturday, he looked a bit lost.

    Looking at the rest of that starting eleven against Brentford…

    I think, as always, Wilson and ASM are automatic choices. Even if not having great games, they deserve their place whatever. ASM looked back to somewhere near his best, whilst Wilson kept the visiting defence occupied and on another day could have scored a couple.

    I’m not a Shelvey fan but he did better than usual against Brentford and with such a poor selection in midfield otherwise, he can keep his place if performing at even an average level, at least until the January transfer window offers options.

    Fabian Schar did ok when coming back into the team and can play / bring it out from the back, which is something I’m sure Eddie Howe will value, considering how poor the other central defenders are at doing so.

    Joelinton was of course the surprise package and the player who had benefited most from Eddie Howe’s arrival, coaching and how he set the team up. More of the same please.

    A full week of training with the full squad will see Eddie Howe this week very likely making some big decisions, in terms of changing his team for Arsenal on Saturday.

    Another factor of course in terms of team selection, is whether the NUFC Head Coach sticks with a back five or moves to a back four, which has been his usual set up in the past at Bournemouth.

    In terms of players who could come into the team, I think the names of Dubravka, Hayden, Lewis, Manquillo, Fraser, Fernandez, Longstaff and Almiron come to mind, to varying degrees.

    Dubravka will surely start, whilst Manquillo and Lewis must be under consideration to replace Murphy and Ritchie.

    Lascelles probably survives but I see Clark exiting potentially, whether that means going to a back four, or potentially Fernandez or even Hayden coming in as one of three centre-backs.

    Fraser did himself no harm with that assist for ASM’s point saver but with a week to show Eddie Howe what he can do, I think Almiron will be back in. Willock under pressure as well from the likes of Longstaff and Hayden.

    Potentially leaving a team that could look a bit like this against Arsenal:

    Dubravka, Manquillo, Lascelles, Schar, Lewis Almiron, Shelvey, Hayden, Joelinton, ASM, Wilson

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