How Newcastle United have discovered a new found ‘confidence’ in defence under Eddie Howe

Newcastle United’s defence have been a transformed unit in 2022.

Eddie Howe’s side have conceded just three league goals in five games so far in 2022, the joint-lowest of any Premier League side so far this year.

This shift has been as remarkable as it was unlikely, especially considering Newcastle’s defensive woes in 2021.

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Under Steve Bruce and then Howe, Newcastle conceded 80 league goals in 2021, the most of any Premier League side in that time.

Newcastle United defenders Fabian Schar and Dan Burn (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

Whether they played with a five-man defence, or four at the back, leaking goals was an all too regular occurrence.

After their hapless defeat to Sheffield United in January last year, Bruce claimed that the ‘gloves were off’ and that Newcastle would ditch their pragmatic defensive style:

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“We’ve played a certain way in the past to try to make sure we get the results we need.” Bruce said. “But, like I say, the gloves are off now. I’m going to do things the way I see fit. We’ll do it my way.”

The Magpies lost their next three games, conceding seven times in the process. However, it isn’t just Bruce that has struggled to get a tune out of the Newcastle back-line.

Newcastle United have conceded just three league goals in 2022 (Photo by Alex Burstow/Getty Images)

Howe’s first game in charge saw them concede three against Brentford, followed up by two goals away at Arsenal a week later. A clean-sheet against Burnley was a welcome relief before they shipped 11 goals in their next three games.

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As January rolled around, defensive recruitments were a must - and with Kieran Trippier, along came solidity, something that was no coincidence according to Ryan Fraser:

“I feel like I'm playing with a monster beside me.” The winger said after victory over Everton. “That's what he brings. He brings confidence and tries to make everyone better.”

Trippier’s injury, picked up against Aston Villa, looked like derailing the defence, however, Martin Dubravka has rarely been tested in recent games and credit for that has to go to the partnership of Dan Burn and Fabian Schar.

The key to all this is seemingly confidence and the pair have that in abundance, bringing a calmness and composure that has so often been missing from the defence in recent times.

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Newcastle are currently six games unbeaten in the league and their much-improved defensive resilience is a major reason for this.

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