Newcastle run out of steam at Bournemouth in The Eddie Howe Derby

Newcastle have been stuttering somewhat in 2023 and a trip to Bournemouth for The Eddie Howe Derby ended in another Premier League stalemate…


Eddie Howe came into The Eddie Howe Derby in uncharted territory. Arsenal’s somewhat underwhelming 1-1 draw with Brentford, Brighton’s draw at Crystal Palace and Spurs’ hiding at Leicester had presented an opportunity for Newcastle to solidify their position in fourth place in the Premier League while closing the gap at the top of the table. The odds against them managing to drag their way back into the title race remain slight, but by the time they took the pitch for their bout of Saturday night fever it did feel somewhat as though the weekend might be opening up for Howe’s team.

On a weekend of derby matches – even Arsenal vs Brentford was The Arsenal Stadium Mystery Derby – this was the least local of all, with a 350 mile journey for away supporters on a Saturday evening. Thanks, Sky Sports! And could there be any team in the Premier League more motivated to beat a Newcastle team managed by Howe than Bournemouth? Over two spells at the club which lasted ten years, he created the modern AFC Bournemouth, even if his last act as their manager was so oversee their 2020 relegation back to the Championship.

Well, this season Bournemouth are back and they’ve had a strange season so far, with all bar three of the games in which they’ve taken any points whatsoever coming in the six weeks following their 9-0 shellacking at Liverpool. Caretaker Gary O’Neil was appointed into the job on the basis of this run, and after their 2-1 win against Leicester on the 8th October they were in 8th place in the Premier League table. But the club was coming under new ownership, and even though a final decision wasn’t made until the end of November, new owner Bill Foley wanted some continuity.

The problem is that results haven’t continued to flow. Bournemouth arrived for this match off the back of seven defeats and one point from their previous eight games, having taken just four points since that win against Leicester, a run of form which has taken them from 8th to 19th place over the previous four months. It doesn’t seem particularly likely that O’Neil will be replaced this season – who would they get in to replace him? – but those odds have been shortening with every defeat in their recent poor run.

And Newcastle United are in a bit of a funk at the moment, not that you would have noticed in the midst of the fever that has settled over the club since the Saudi takeover but, in amongst the small matter of the celebrations at having reached their first EFL Cup final since 1976, their league form has tailed off a little. Newcastle have played five Premier League games in 2023, winning one and drawing four. That’s eight points dropped and, other than their goalless draw at Arsenal last month, all against fairly moderate opposition. It’s reasonable to say that Newcastle had a stellar 2022, but their 2023 has thus far been somewhat less impressive. Against West Ham, they were distinctly ponderous.

And for 46 minutes and 55 seconds of the first half in this match, it seemed as though this pattern was repeating itself. Newcastle were sluggish and careless, playing as though their Saudi-inspired shirts were causing them to play as though it was 50 degrees celcius, and it was no huge surprise when when a corner from Hamed Traore was flicked on by Dango Ouattara and Marcos Senesi turned the ball over the line from a yard out, with Newcastle’s defenders standing around sizing each other up over who would to be blame for an uncharacteristic collective defensive lapse. 

There were just seconds left in the first half when Newcastle found a route back into the game. Alain Saint-Maximin passed inside from the left, Sean Longstaff’s shot was well blocked by Neto and Miguel Almiron scored from the rebound. It was not an equalising goal that Newcastle particularly deserved, but it came at a critical time for Newcastle, rescuing parity for the half-time break while also perhaps allowing a little self-doubt to creep back into Bournemouth’s thoughts at a crucial time.

But the patterns of the first half were largely repeated in the second. Newcastle dominated possession, but with Bruno Guimaraes suspended and Callum Wilson injured Newcastle were ponderous when they did and their best chance came when Saint-Maximin’s weak shot was spilled by Neto, who then had to scramble as Longstaff and then Anthony Gordon tried to bundle the ball over the line. Newcastle even had a let-off as the click ticked over ninety minutes, when Dominic Solanke’s flick was cleared off the line by Kieran Trippier with the home players and crowd that the ball had crossed the line. It had not.

Bournemouth may well be a little disappointed at having conceded an equalising goal so close to half-time, but O’Neil will be satisfied at having taken a point from a match against the team in fourth place in the table. Their position remains delicate, but they’re only a point from safety even now and showed considerable character in this game, even if they couldn’t quite manage to grab all three points. They lost their previous game to Brighton thanks only to a late winning goal at the Amex. On this occasion, they worked hard and seldom looked like losing the game during the second half, even though they were on the defensive for much of it.

On the sidelines, Howe wrinkled his nose in frustration at the final whistle. When you’re near the top of the table, every failure to win is points dropped and the opportunity for Newcastle to make up a little ground on Arsenal or put some really clear daylight between themselves was real and not taken. An opportunity missed and a slightly stodgy performance, they’ll be counting down the days until the return of the talismanic Guimaraes. It’s a long way home from Bournemouth to Newcastle, and with five wins from their last six games, Howe certainly has some thinking to do.

Author: editor

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