Eddie Howe points to 'dramatic' Newcastle United improvement after tactical change
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The club has only won one Premier League fixture so far this season, though the club would have beaten Crystal Palace last weekend had not had a goal wrongly ruled out by referee Michael Salisbury following a VAR check.
Newcastle, 19th in the table when Howe took charge last November, went on an extraordinary run in the second half of last season to pull away from relegation trouble.
And Howe feels the performances this season have been even better as the team, strengthened by the summer arrivals of Alexander Isak, Sven Botman, Nick Pope and Matt Target, has transitioned away from a counter-attacking game.
“I’d say we’ve played a lot better this season than in the spell we had when we were winning games towards the end of last season,” said United’s head coach.
"I think we’ve been much better this season.
“I think, if you look back at those games last season, then we were without the ball for huge periods in all of those games, but we were very good defensively, managed to get a goal ahead, and clung on brilliantly well. That’s not in every game, but it was in the majority.
"I’d say our overall performance levels have dramatically improved.
"But, with that, comes different challenges, because now we’re facing teams that defend a little bit deeper, we’ve got a bit more ball, and now we have to break them down rather than playing on transitions.
"Last season, we were playing on counter-attacks a lot at certain times during that good run. I think your strength then becomes a different thing, and you have to find answers to those problems.
"I thought we found the answers (against Palace). We created chances and had the moments – we just didn’t take them.
"That’s why I think there’s positive signs, because it wasn’t as though we were lacking in creativity or ability to open them up. I thought that was there.”
Newcastle, 11th in the table with seven points from six games, take on West Ham United at the London Stadium on Sunday.