Defensive problems persist but Joelinton is reborn: FIVE key takeaways from Newcastle United's draw with Brentford
Eddie Howe kickstarted his Newcastle United tenure from his hotel room - but he would have learned plenty.
The abysmal defensive record
Collectively, Newcastle were much, much better and provided supporters with plenty of positives to take forward.
Possession stats were over 50% in a long, long time. Shots at goal reached 23. There was a clear plan and attacked with greater intent.
That said, there’s no hiding that their current defensive record will bring Championship football next season.
Brentford’s visit to Tyneside was the perfect chance to claim the first win. Instead, they’ve needed three goals just to get a point against a newly-promoted side on a four-game losing streak.
The club’s 27 goals conceded is joint-worst with Norwich City – and that includes their 7-0 hammering at Chelsea. That’s an average of 2.25 per game. That simply can’t continue.
After 10 days of training, the improvements under Howe were very evident but the pressure is that Newcastle need results and fast.
Individual errors persist
One thing Howe couldn’t legislate for is individual errors, and that persisted against Brentford.
Karl Darlow’s howler gifted Ivan Toney an equaliser in such a crucial period where United had just taken the lead.
For Rico Henry’s second, Matt Ritchie allowed Sergi Canos to whip in an in-swinging cross and Jacob Murphy completely lost the Bees full-back at the backpost.
You could argue Brentford’s third was a mistake with Frank Onyeka freely allowed to cut inside before a lucky deflection via Jamaal Lascelles.
Time for Martin Dubravka
There’s no doubting that Karl Darlow is a strong back-up but when Martin Dubravka is fit, he must play.
Maybe the visit of Brentford came too soon for the Slovakian, even if he did play 90 minutes on international duty.
But for the trip to Arsenal, Dubravka has to be recalled. Indeed, it was another mistake by Darlow after arguably making two against Chelsea.
Dubravka is Newcastle’s number one for a reason. Play him.
A new Joelinton?
For 83 minutes, Joelinton had enjoyed a pretty faultless afternoon. The Brazilian was like a man reborn.
He bagged a deserved goal, established himself as a big physical presence and was excellent at carrying the ball forward.
But his golden opportunity to win it where he slipped in on goal – how big could that be in Newcastle’s season?
It is little moments like that is why Joelinton is struggling to fend off his critics, for now anyway, albeit he was United’s best player of the afternoon.
Same(ish) old story
Howe spoke of his intention to play on the front foot, and he certainly delivered with an unorthodox 3-4-3, but it was the same old story in terms of the result.
Because of the mess left by his predecessor, improved performances count for nothing unless a win comes with it.
Whatever way you look at it, the harsh reality is Newcastle are bottom of the Premier League and the only team in England’s top four divisions not to win.
If there were any doubt over the difficult task facing Howe to keep the club in the top-flight, there shouldn’t be now.
A trip to the Emirates is next for United, a ground they haven’t won on since 2010. But those are the challenges Newcastle must overcome.