Newcastle United: Is Champions League football now a reality rather than a dream?

Newcastle United have been dreaming of Champions League football for quite some time, with that dream brought much closer after the recent purchase of the club by a Saudi-led group this time last year.

But perhaps not even the most ambitious of Newcastle fans could have predicted such a rapid rise. The Magpies currently occupy third spot in the Premier League table, with seven wins from their 14 matches.

There is still a seven-point gap between the club and leaders Arsenal, but manager Eddie Howe and all Newcastle fans will be over the moon with how the new campaign has gone.

Including Wednesday’s League Cup victory over Crystal Palace, Newcastle are now unbeaten in their last 10 matches. They have won seven of those 10 games, and last lost at the end of October against Liverpool, their only loss of the season so far.

The 4-3-3 has worked wonders, with Eddie Howe winning 22 of his 43 matches as Newcastle boss. The club have scored 59 goals in that time, conceding 48, with an average of 1.74 points per match.

After years and years of disharmony and disruption, there is now unity among all connected to the club, with Howe bringing back a community feel to the Magpies. It has worked wonders so far, and it looks set to continue in the months to come.

The 2022 World Cup could play a key part in Newcastle’s season, with the tournament either stopping the Magpies’ momentum, or else providing them with a well-deserved break.

That said, a handful of Newcastle men will, of course, be playing in the competition. Nick Pope, Kieran Trippier and Callum Wilson will be on duty with England, while the likes of Fabian Schar and Bruno Guimaraes will more than likely play a key role for their respective countries.

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Newcastle boss Howe working his magic in the dugout

Plenty of questions were asked of the club when they appointed former Bournemouth manager Howe as the man to take Newcastle to the next level. There was seemingly a long list of better-qualified and indeed higher-profile managers out there, especially since Howe had only recently been relegated from the Premier League with the Cherries.

But the boss has answered those doubters in fine fashion, establishing his exciting, attacking style of play in a short period of time. Only Manchester City (39) and Arsenal (31) have scored more Premier League goals than Newcastle this season.

Importantly, standards have also been raised at the other end of the pitch. Newcastle have the joint-best defensive record in the top flight, conceding just 11 goals from their 14 matches.

Howe and his assistant Jason Tindall have instilled plenty of belief among the players, and it seems that everyone is ready to fight on each and every game day. It is undoubtedly a collective effort, with the whole squad, staff and of course the St James’ Park faithful all playing their part.

Almiron and Wilson on fire for the Magpies

While it is undoubtedly a team effort, much of the thrills this season have been courtesy of attackers Miguel Almiron and Callum Wilson. The former has eight goals in the current Premier League campaign, with the latter on six, despite his injury struggles. They have helped many fans forget that big-money signing Alexander Isak is at the club, with the Swede currently out of action through injury.

Almiron’s story of raising his game has been well documented, with the Paraguayan now one of the most dangerous attackers in European football. Only Erling Haaland (18), Harry Kane (11) and Aleksandar Mitrovic (nine) have more Premier League goals than Almiron this season. All three are, of course, strikers, with Almiron solely playing wide right.

Given the fact that Newcastle are not even in the top ten for neither touches or passes in the Premier League this season, it’s clear that pace and a direct approach is how the manager wants his side to play, with counter attacks often the name of the game.

Couple this with the fact that the Magpies are fourth for shots, joint-first for offsides and first for hitting the woodwork, and it’s evident that Howe wants his players to attack and have a go at goal as much as possible.

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Newcastle rock solid at the back

As mentioned, it is not only Newcastle’s attackers who have upped their game this season. It is often the case in free-flowing football sides, such as Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool, whereby all-out attack leads to gaps at the back and subsequently goals conceded.

But that has not been the case for the men in black and white. Their new-look defence has been rock solid, led by new on-field captain Trippier. The full-back has been outstanding at both ends of the pitch.

His tackling, awareness and ability to keep possession has been key in helping Newcastle remain firm at the back, while his delivery from both open play and dead-balls is second to none. He boasts one goal and four assists in all competitions this season. Trippier’s 1,095 touches place him fourth in the list for the current Premier League campaign.

Alongside him, summer recruit Sven Botman has been immense, winning countless aerial and ground duels. He has been eased into life at St James’, a bold decision from Howe, but one that has paid off.

Next to Botman, Schar has been rejuvenated, and like Trippier is helping out at both ends of the pitch. Dan Burn meanwhile has been outstanding at left-back, with the towering defender very underrated, as he always has been.

Between the sticks, Pope boasts six Premier League clean sheets for the current campaign. It’s level with Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsdale and Man City’s Ederson. He has produced countless world-class saves when called upon, and is among a handful of players to play every minute possible this season.

Newcastle’s midfielders do, of course, also warrant a special mention. Guimaraes, Joelinton and Sean Longstaff have been outstanding, with their boundless energy and desire combining to often overwhelm opposition midfielders. Joe Willock has also played a key role.

Is it now time that Newcastle’s name is mentioned in the Champions League conversation ahead of next season?

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