Newcastle United 2023/24 Premier League Season Preview | The Hard Tackle

With the 2023/24 Premier League season about to kick off next weekend, The Hard Tackle assesses the prospects of Newcastle United.

Newcastle United are, without a doubt, miles ahead of schedule in their development curve under Eddie Howe, and turning the clock back just 12 months would bring modest predictions, or even aspirations, of a top-eight finish and a good run in a domestic cup.

A lot of the talk around the time from Howe and the club’s senior management team was about incremental progression and taking a step-by-step approach to becoming regular challengers for a top-four place and major prizes. Yet Eddie Howe’s soaring Toon Army will imminently be dining at Europe’s top table after a remarkable period of sustained progression.

Last season’s fourth-place finish surprised many, including those involved with the club, but as confidence and belief rose throughout the course of last season, so too did the knowledge that there will be new dynamics and expectations around Newcastle United after the magical season they had last time out. There was a lot of work that needed to be done in order to get Howe’s squad ready to challenge on a number of fronts during the coming campaign.

So, throughout the summer, the exciting Newcastle United fans are treading with caution, mindful not to set overly high hopes for their beloved team that already broke the shackles that held them back under previous management.

The other set of unwavering optimists envisions a promising future ahead, with the club continuing to make all the right decisions off the pitch. Nevertheless, expectations are rising heading into the upcoming campaign.

And here, at The Hard Tackle, we will take a closer look at Newcastle’s chances in the upcoming campaign and whether or not they have what it takes to break into the top-four once again, under the leadership of Eddie Howe.


From surviving a relegation scrap to competing with some of the very best in the English top flight for a seat amongst Europe’s elite, Newcastle’s rise to prominence has been nothing short of astonishing. They defied all expectations at every turn last season.

A team full of redemption arcs, from Joelinton to Almiron to Fabian Schar, this teams determination to bring success to Tyneside and silence their critics was driven by something greater than the glitz and glam of the Premier League. Last season, the profound bond between the fans and the players on the field was vividly evident and contributed to the team’s rise up the table.

In addition, Newcastle United reached their first domestic cup final in over 20 years. Indeed, the cup final did not go as planned for the Magpies; the sight of 40,000 enthusiastic Geordies taking over Trafalgar Square and filling Wembley Stadium highlighted the sheer scale of the club’s passionate and energetic fanbase. This resurgence of fan enthusiasm marked a stark contrast to the previous fifteen years of lackluster performance during Mike Ashley’s ownership.

But one thing Howe & Co. will definitely look to avoid repeating is their sluggish start from last season. Given how strongly the campaign ended, it’s easy to overlook the fact that victory over Nottingham Forest in their Premier League was followed by a six-game winless streak in the top flight (D5 L1).

Of course, they rebounded well, but they will want to rack up as many points as possible before their Champions League campaign kicks off.

Anyways, they dropped into the bottom half when they headed to Fulham at the start of October last, but a flamboyant 4-1 victory at Craven Cottage would prove the springboard for the autumn surge that took them into a top-four spot by the end of the year.

The new year kicked off with a goalless draw at title-chasing Arsenal that saw Howe accused of adopting the “dark arts” of time-wasting and faking injuries. “We aren’t here to be popular,” insisted Eddie Howe after his side surely ruffled the feathers of opposition fans.

At the same time, they played some free-flowing, exhilarating attacking football while also keeping any opposition at bay. Newcastle’s 68 goals scored highlight how dangerous they were in attack, but their 78 big chances created suggest there is a hint of profligacy that they will need to improve on next term.

Isak and Callum Wilson pushed each other to a whole new level that successfully reversed their slump before the Carabao Cup defeat.

They played a high-intensity style that would go on to become their trademark on the pitch. Plenty of opponents simply couldn’t live with the suffocating press, and that included Manchester City, who were forced into playing a 3-3 thriller back in August.

Needless to say, they had the joint-best defence alongside Manchester City, with only 33 goals conceded over the 38 league games, and much of that was down to the ever-present backline of Nick Pope, Sven Botman, Fabian Schar, Kieran Trippier, and Dan Burn.

Newcastle United had some excellent performances last season. As the saying goes, “Revenge is a dish best served cold,” and the Magpies did just that, hammering Manchester United 2-0 at St. James’ Park after the EFL Cup disappointment, with Eddie Howe stealing the headlines recently for a spine-tingling pre-match motivation team talk ahead of the game, as shown in the latest Amazon documentary.

Honourable mentions to the 5-1 thrashing of Brentford and a 4-1 victory against Brighton, which was pivotal for their Champions League aspirations, but the Magpies’ 6-1 mauling of Tottenham in April was the stuff of dreams.

The Magpies were expected to give the struggling Spurs a run for their money, but what they did to Spurs was beyond comprehensible in modern day professional football, let alone in arguably the most competent league in the world.

Howe’s men were three goals up inside nine minutes, and taking advantage of a disorganised Spurs side, they added two more to be 5-0 ahead after just 21 minutes on the clock. To phrase it “men vs. boys” is perhaps an understatement, such was the absolute dominance from Newcastle United.

A top-four finish was clinched in an emotional final home game against Leicester that saw St. James’ Park turn into a real fortress with a sea of black-and-white flags and a big tifo featuring the manager and the players. The post-match celebrations, with the players and staff rejoicing in front of the ecstatic home support, will be remembered for a long time on Tyneside. 

Attention now switches to the future, and the challenge of competing in both the Champions League and Premier League next season. And it’s fair to say, Howe has found himself in the privileged position of being able to purchase a few shiny toys, especially in his midfield and attacking areas.

Squad Updates

When Newcastle United were taken over by a consortium led by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund in October 2021, many suggested the likes of Kylian Mbappe, Neymar, Ronaldo, and Lionel Messi could soon be lining up in the famous black and white shirt at St James’ Park, just like the revolution at Manchester City and Chelsea after their respective big-money takeovers. That hasn’t quite happened.

Straying away from superstar signings for the sake of it, the success of Newcastle’s recruitment has been the bedrock upon which the club has shot up the table and into the Champions League.

Big money has been invested, but it has been spent with a purpose. strategy revolves around bringing in players who can contribute both immediately and in the long term. Notably, players like Bruno Guimaraes, Sven Botman, Anthony Gordon, and Alexander Isak were all signed in their early-to-mid twenties.

They have time to nurture under Howe, to settle into life in the Premier League, and, most importantly, to improve the Magpies on the pitch and their reputation off it around the world as shrewd buyers.

The Toon recruitment team has been in the works of preparing their squad for a Champions League push in the 2023/24 season for quite some time in the summer transfer window. One factor the team focused on was shaping and skewing the squad into the image that Howe believes in.

As such, the Magpies went out into the open market and left with the signings of forward Harvey Barnes, midfielder Sandro Tonali, and winger Yankuba Minteh. While the latter of the three is a development signing and has already been sent out on loan at Feyenoord, the other two additions alone have drastically heightened the possibilities for the club in the coming season.

Tonali, for one, is a massive statement capture and would bring some much-needed Champions League experience to the squad, having played in the Champions League semi-final with AC Milan only last season. The success of a deal for the former AC Milan midfielder was unexpected but one that adds a lot to their squad.

In Tonali, they have got their hands on a player who is already at an elite level but who, at the age of 23, has plenty of room to improve. The Italian international’s arrival would also give them flexibility in the middle of the park, as alongside Bruno Guimaraes, Newcastle will have two technicians on the pitch, both possessing great athleticism, tenacity, tactical versatility, and a creative eye.

Howe’s side often struggled with finding goals against low blocks last season, and the signing of Barnes’ arrival should drastically help with that, as he recorded a stellar 13 goals for the relegated Leicester City last year alone.

With a well-taken brace on his St. James’ Park-friendly debut, Barnes showcased he can offer something new, lethal, and effective at left-flank. Both of his goals were his trademark first-time finishes, arriving from the left half-space.

Not only carrying the ball at pace, creating space for others, and getting efficient shots away to at least work the keeper, but his movement off the line is something his predecessor Saint-Maximin rarely did, adding another dynamic to attack. And when he arrives late on the left side, he slots in absolute daggers.

The Toon aren’t finished in the transfer window yet. In fact, they only today announced the capture of highly-rated and versatile full-back Valentino Livramento from Southampton after the 20-year-old completed his medical ahead of an initial £31 million move to Tyneside.

The Magpies need cover at full-back, and signing one of the brightest young prospects in England is a fantastic way to go about your business. Of course, there are doubts over the player due to his injury history after he almost missed the entirety of last term with an ACL injury, but let’s not forget just how good the youngster was when he was at his best for Southampton. In terms of Trippier’s successors in the long run, he’s the best on the market and well worth the above quoted price if Howe can get him back to his best.

It is also no secret that Howe is after a new right centre-back this window to rival, or more likely replace, Fabian Schar in the long run. Priced at £40 million, Joachim Andersen is the most apparent name in the centre-back transfer rumour circulation. Similar style and profile to the Swiss international, very good distributor, aerial dominator, intelligent game-reader, and positionally sound, just lacks a bit of pace.

There has already been some chopping of the bloated squad at St James’ Park this summer after defensive trio Kelland Watts, Jamal Lewis, and Matty Bondswell all headed out on loan.

Long-serving goalkeeper Karl Darlow has joined Leeds United in a deal that was reportedly worth around £400,000, and, as mentioned earlier, Allan Saint-Maximin moved to the Saudi Pro-League after completing a move to Al Ahli a fortnight ago. Young Harrison Ashby has been loaned out to Swansea City to gain regular first-team experience.

However, Elliot Anderson’s sparkling pre-season form has thrust him into the discussion over Howe’s starting eleven for the Premier League opener against Aston Villa, rather than any potential loan move away from Tyneside.

17-year-old playmaker Lewis Miley also delivered some impressive performances during the pre-season. The young midfielder is viewed as a genuine talent, not only within the United academy but also across England’s youth levels. His composure on the ball, ability in tight spaces, turn under pressure, and vision are exceptional, and physically, he hasn’t looked out of place against Premier League opponents in the summer series.

Another aspect is that Newcastle are recruiting heavily for their academy. There is a commitment to strengthen age groups across United’s youth ranks, and Southend United striker Kacey Wooster and Inter Milan winger Kevin Zefi are said to be the newest additions to the academy, following the likes of Oldham Athletic’s Sam Alabi and Port Vale winger Michael Mills in moving to Tyneside, while Wolves youngster Leo Sahar is set to make a similar switch in the coming days.

Qualifying for the Champions League will see Newcastle’s Under-19s compete in the UEFA Youth League for the first time, and that has increased the workload on the club’s younger players, leading to a raft of youth recruits on Tyneside to help cope with the hectic fixture list.

Key Fixtures

Newcastle United have been handed a tricky run at the start of the new campaign. The Magpies kick off their 2023/24 Premier League season at home to Unai Emery’s Aston Villa, who were one of the very few sides that convincingly defeated them 3-0 in the second half of last season, and will be eager to get off the mark, having made some statement signings in the transfer window so far.

After their season opener, they are going to play back-to-back games against treble-winners Manchester City and Liverpool, the latter of whom did the league double over Newcastle last term. The matches don’t get any easier, with European-place contenders Brighton and Thomas Frank’s Brentford also set to pose questions.

The run ahead of November is much more straightforward, so if Newcastle does manage a respectable top-half tally from their five opening games, they could be in for a feast, with a very winnable set of games against the likes of Sheffield United (a), Burnley (h), West Ham United (a), Crystal Palace (h), and Wolves (a).

The aforementioned games will also fit in very nicely in context to their European endeavours, with the first fixture of their Champions League group stage campaign set to be scheduled for Sept. 19 and 20.

Of course, every Premier League game is a difficult one, and there were times when the Toon struggled to break down low blocks, resulting in draws against Crystal Palace (twice), Leeds United, Wolves, Leicester City, Chelsea, and Brighton last season, but there is a feeling they will need to be more ruthless at churning out maximum points from these games to retain their top-four status.

Newcastle will take on two London giants, Arsenal and Chelsea, in November. The month of December promises to be a hectic time for Eddie Howe’s side and will test their squad depth, with the Black and Whites hosting Manchester United, followed by Everton (a), Tottenham Hotspur (a), Fulham (h), Luton Town (a) on the menu, and Nottingham Forest (h) on Boxing Day.

They’ll bid farewell to a historic and momentous 2023 with an away clash against Liverpool on December 30. The mid-season break between January 13 and January 20 will allow players an extra recovery period after a busy festive fixture schedule.

The start of the next year pins a tie against the Premier League holders at St. James’ Park. Even the end of the 2023/24 season could be tricky for them, with Brighton at home and Brentford away in the final matches. All in all, Newcastle will have a big test of their mantle to maintain their rise to prominence domestically and also assert themselves in Europe.

Key Players

Alexander Isak

The Swede, better say the heir of the great Thierry Henry, is a straight-up baller. There is nothing Isak can’t do. He is the complete striker—technically able on the ball, fast, physically imposing, intelligent, and blessed with the natural instinct of when and where to position himself in front of the goal.

Now fully adapted to life in England, only fitness concerns can stop his continued progress on the pitch. A real superstar season in 2023/24 could be on the cards for the former AIK and Borussia Dortmund sensation.

Despite missing a chunk of last season through injury issues, Isak showed he certainly has an eye for goal, coming away with 10 goals in 22 Premier League appearances, igniting fuel for Newcastle’s Champions League propulsion just at the right time, and displaying many other mouthwatering attributes beyond just scoring goals.

Isak spent the last few games of the season operating mostly on the left flank as a goal creator as Howe tried to get Callum Wilson back into the team, but he still put in some scintillating displays out wide. He blew everyone’s minds with a sparkling run down the wing against Everton that had the Toffees backline’s careers’ in question before he put in a ball that found its way to Jacob Murphy to slot home.

Though Callum Wilson did exceptionally well for Newcastle last season, if Howe is going to play Harvey Barnes or Anthony Gordon on the left, then the Swedish international striker should be the preferred choice to spearhead the line for the Magpies on Tyneside, and rightfully so owing to his ability to link up and dovetail with attackers around him.

Isak would also benefit from Barnes’ arrival. His ability to combine in tight spaces and dribble with the ball at his feet feels like the ideal foil to Barnes, who loves interplay and give-and-goes in and around the 18-yard box before slotting it into the back of the net.

Not to mention, Isak’s willingness to drop deep and link the play will give Barnes opportunities to make sharp runs beyond him. So not only will the lanky Swede bag loads of goals, but he will also be among those with a fair share of assists.

Bruno Guimaraes

Before we wax lyrical about our second pick, shoutouts to skipper Kieran Trippier, Miguel Almiron, Nick Pope, and Sven Botman, all of whom will be crucial to Newcastle’s hopes of maintaining high performance levels from last season. Meanwhile, there’s potential for a hungry Anthony Gordon to really explode onto the scene after scooping the best player of the tournament award at the recent Under-21 European championships.

Now back to the player in question: Guimaraes was Newcastle’s best midfielder last season by some distance, which is shown by the fact that they didn’t win a single Premier League match without their talismanic midfielder in the entirety of 2022–23. Basically, they were a shadow of the team when he was not playing; struggling to break down teams, and lacking creativity from midfield.

Pressuring, tackling, maintaining the tempo, carrying the ball successfully, being available for passes, playmaking, churning out opportunities for forwards, and even scoring with late runs into the box—the playmaker does everything, and he does it very, very well with a great engine. To put it simply, Guimaraes is world class and would make any team in the world better.

The combative Brazilian, who has become a cult hero amongst the Newcastle United fanbase and a crucial pillar of the owners’ ambitious project since moving to St James’ Park in January 2022 from French side Lyon, is not really blessed with typical pace and isn’t particularly agile, but he is intelligent with his ball manoeuvres and combines his powerful stride with an intricate dribbling style that is press-resistant and attracts fouls more often than not.

Barring Trippier, there is no player other than Bruno who can play high-risk long passes or line-breaking ones to cut open defences. With Tonali’s arrival, he would get more freedom to roam forward and pick his passes, with the Italian playmaker taking care of defensive duties and patrolling the engine room.

There’s an ongoing contract impasse between the club and the player, despite the willingness of both parties to get that sorted out sooner rather than later. The Magpies’ are keen to tie the midfielder down until 2028, with his current contract set to expire in 2026, but the player’s increased wage demands and positional preference are holding things up.

Regardless, at 25 years old, Guimaraes is entering his golden age, and his best years are ahead of him, which is a scary proposition for the Premier League. With Newcastle United gradually surrounding him with increased talent, it will be interesting to see what next season holds for him at St. James’ Park.

Season Expectations

There is a lot to enthuse over at St. James’ Park at this point in time after an incredible season last time around, and now fans get to look forward to Champions League football this term. Last season was almost perfect, but can they go one better and, you know, repeat it again or win a cup, even push the top two?

Champions League football ushers in an entirely new dimension for Newcastle United, infusing the club with prestige, players with invaluable experience, and fans with thrilling entertainment. Yet, lurking within this exuberance is the manager’s dreaded adversary: fatigue.

Despite impressive progress after the takeover, the squad’s depth isn’t enough to handle both the Premier League and the Champions League simultaneously this season, especially at the back.

The Magpies’ foundation for success last season was laid upon a steadfast defence, and with solely the fan favourite, albeit erratic, alternatives of Jamaal Lascelles, and Paul Dummett accessible at the heart of the defence, the trajectory could swiftly veer southward for Newcastle United. An unfortunate injury sidelining the likes of Botman or Schar could potentially spell catastrophe for the Toon’s aspirations next season.

But then again, with a couple more bodies through the door in the defensive department, there’s no reason why they can’t match their league position from last season. Eddie Howe is arguably one of the smartest and best coaches around in world football at the moment, which may seem like a bold statement at first glance, but the guy deserves a lot of credit.

Joelinton, once dubbed a striker flop, is now a midfield workhorse, providing goals and assists as well as the energy, versatility, and strength so admired by the Toon faithful. The lack of end-product from Almiron was once bemoaned, yet the lively winger produced 14 goal involvements last season, hitting double figures for goals for the first time in the Premier League.

Schar had watched on from the sidelines in the opening weeks of the season prior to Howe’s arrival, yet now forms a cool and classy part of the Premier League’s most water-tight defence. The same goes for fringe stars Jacob Murphy and Lascelles, so if a key player is sidelined, the backup option will more often than not step up his game or at least give a decent level of output in terms of work rate and tactical delivery, such are the high standards Howe demands from his fringe cast.

With Miley and Anderson, there seems to be enough depth in midfield, while Gordon, Livramento, and Barnes could all go a few levels up during the season. Isak, Botman, and Guimaraes will only get better in their second full-season in the Premier League; they are certainly more experienced and well-versed.

The entire media narrative that the Magpies’ will struggle to replicate last season’s top-four heroics due to the double workload seems to be solely for Newcastle and doesn’t take into account the levels of expectation Howe’s and the club’s owners have from this very set of players.

With the way Champions League coefficients are going to work, the top five may well be enough to secure entry into the European top-tier next season. Looking at the competition, Newcastle look comfortably in the top five best in the country at the moment.

Chelsea and Tottenham have still got work to do after they fell away from the pack last season. Liverpool are in serious transition after losing several experienced heads in the dressing room. Aston Villa are a force to be reckoned with, and there are still doubts whether Brighton will be as good; they usually recover from losing their best players, but improving talent with every game Thursday and Sunday will be tricky.

Manchester United, in particular, were really lucky to get third last season; the Magpies took four points off them and really battered them at St. James’ Park. As ever, the Red Devils have spent money, but there’s a bit of turmoil due to the proposed takeover.

With all that in mind, The Hard Tackle predicts Newcastle United to have yet another entertaining and enjoyable season that sees them secure a top-four berth, as well as make it through to the Champions League quarterfinals, but the latter is a topic of discussion for another time.

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