Five things we learnt from Newcastle United's Austria tour as talented player turns Eddie Howe's head

Newcastle United’s players arrived back on Tyneside from the club’s tour of Austria last night – and they were ready for a quick breather.

The club’s squad had a gruelling stay in the mountains, where they did double sessions in soaring temperatures.

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And the journalists in the country got a fascinating insight into Eddie Howe’s methods on the training pitch, the mood behind the scenes in camp – and what needs to be done between now and the start of the new Premier League season.

Here, we look at five things we learnt from the tour, which culminated in a 1-0 defeat to Mainz 05 yesterday.

Elliot Anderson’s pushing for a squad place

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Elliot Anderson’s can’t be too far away from earning a place in Howe’s Premier League squad.

The 19-year-old midfielder – who helped loan club Bristol Rovers secure promotion to League One last season – won praise from Howe for his performances in both games in Austria.

Newcastle United head coach Eddie Howe.

Anderson, in Howe’s view, was the team’s first-half “bright spark” in Friday’s 3-0 win over 1860 Munich at the Saalfelden Arena, and he also caught the eye after coming off the bench against Mainz in Kufstein.

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It’s clear from what Howe has said on tour that Anderson has also impressed him – and, importantly, his team-mates – on the training pitch.

“He’s in and around the group,” said Howe. “He’s not looking out of place. In that company, that’s saying something.”

Elliot Anderson celebrates scoring a promotion-winning goal for loan club Bristol Rovers last season.

That’s high praise, indeed, from Howe, who will have a decision to make on Anderson, wanted on loan by a number of clubs, before next month’s transfer deadline.

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Sven Botman will be a big presence at the back

Standing at 6ft 5ins, Sven Botman, United’s £35million summer signing, is a big presence – on and off the pitch.

The club finally signed the defender early this summer from Lille amid competition from AC Milan.

Newcastle United's Bruno Guimaraes arriving before the Premier League match at Sts James's Park last season.
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Newcastle’s tour of Austria has enabled Botman and fellow new signing Nick Pope to get to know their new team-mates. Botman already seems relaxed around the group.

The two games have also enabled fans to get to know Botman as a player. The 22-year-old started the Mainz fixture alongside Fabian Schar, and the imposing player didn’t put a foot wrong. He was composed on the ball – and competitive out of possession.

Fans are wondering if that central defensive pair is the one which will start the new Premier League season.

It’s early days, but it’s not hard to see why the club – and Milan Stefano Pioli – tried so hard to sign Botman.

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Eddie Howe’s tough demands

It’s been a tough week or two for United’s players, and there will be relief within the squad that Howe plans to “taper down” the intensity of his training sessions this week ahead of friendlies against Burnley and Benfica in Portugal.

There was no let-up on the training pitch at the club’s hotel near Saalfelden, despite the soaring temperatures. The intensity of the training has even surprised Botman, who played Champions League football last season.

The players went from one drill to the next, and what the players have experienced in Austria, and on Tyneside in the first week or so back, is a step-change from what they will have experienced in previous pre-seasons.

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Howe watched back every session – they were filmed by a drone – and passed on feedback to his players.

Co-owner Amanda Staveley said that the squad Howe inherited midway through last season “wasn’t fit”, but there should be no issues around fitness come the start of the new season.

The missing creative spark

The attitude and application was there from Newcastle’s players at the Kufstein Arena yesterday.

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Against good Bundesliga opposition, the team played with a welcome intensity. They competed well, and were only beaten by a goal which wouldn’t have been allowed in a competitive fixture.

What was missing, however, was a creative spark in the final third of the pitch.

“We want to score goals, create goals, that's how we want to play,” said Howe. “In these conditions, it's so hot and the pitch is slow, that's not easy.

“But, saying that, we have very good players and we should be doing a little bit better than today, I think."

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Howe needs more signings – a striker and a winger are a necessity – but he also needs more from his creative players.

And, hopefully, we’ll start to see more from Allan Saint-Maximin in the club’s remaining pre-season fixtures.

Bruno Guimaraes is still the one to watch

Bruno Guimaraes was a revelation for United last season following his mid-season move from Olympique Lyonnais.

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The midfielder had to wait for his first start, but when he got it, there was not stopping him, and he ended the season with four goals to his name.

Guimaraes brought some Brazilian flair to the team, and he also backed up his artistry with the industry needed in the Premier League.

The 24-year-old – who spoke about his happiness on and off the field after scoring in the win over 1860 – should be even better this season now he’s adjusted to the intensity and physicality of English football.

Guimaraes applied himself well so far in the tour games, and the fans who travelled to Austria saw a few glimpses of his talent and vision.

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With the benefit of a full pre-season at Newcastle behind him, Guimaraes, it’s hoped, can make an even bigger impact in the coming months.

Guimares will still the one to watch this season.