The Magpies have beaten Leeds United, Everton and Aston Villa in consecutive matches to move out of the relegation zone and four points clear of 18th placed Norwich City with a game in hand.
That could potentially extend to seven points with a win in the early kick-off at West Ham United on Saturday (12:30pm kick-off) but it will be a tough task for Eddie Howe’s side with The Hammers currently sitting fifth in the table.
Here, our Shields Gazette writers Miles Starforth and Dominic Scurr answer some of the key questions surrounding the club ahead of Saturday’s match at West Ham…
What is the current injury situation?
MS: “Howe has lost two of his most important and influential players - Callum Wilson and Kieran Trippier - for all but the last few games of the season in all likelihood, and that’s a significant blow. The loss of Javier Manquillo and Matt Ritchie, coupled with the omission of Jamal Lewis from the club’s 25-man Premier League squad, has left Howe shot in the full-back positions. The hope is that Manquillo’s ankle problem isn’t a serious one."
DS: “Trippier’s fractured metatarsal is the big one for Newcastle at the moment with the instrumental right-back likely to be out for the next couple of months as a best case scenario. Hopefully Manquillo will be back sooner rather than later. Jamaal Lascelles is also back in full training and in contention to play against West Ham after missing Sunday’s match against Aston Villa due to illness.”
How big a blow will losing Kieran Trippier be?
MS: “Trippier hasn’t put a foot wrong since joining last month. You just have to look at the upturn in performances and results since his arrival to see what a blow this is, though the club will still have his off-the-field leadership as he recovers from the fracture of the fifth metatarsal on his left foot.”
DS: “Newcastle are arguably losing the only genuinely world class player in their squad. It will be a blow but at least he has made a positive impact in the four games he’s played. Being optimistic, we all thought Callum Wilson's injury would spell disaster for Newcastle but the side have since gone on to pick up 10 points from 12 without him, hopefully they can manage without Trippier too.”
How do you expect Newcastle to set up against West Ham United on Saturday?
MS: “I’d expect the same system with Matt Targett, ineligible last weekend, replacing the injured Manquillo, and Emil Krafth coming in for Trippier. The rest of the team all but picks itself after three successive wins.”
DS: “I agree with Miles. Howe will be reluctant to change a winning system unless it’s absolutely necessary. After his first game in charge, Howe switched to a four at the back and hasn’t deviated on that since. Trippier’s injury and Lascelles’ return could force a rethink, but it’s unlikely given the side have conceded just three times in the last five league matches they’ve gone unbeaten.”
Will Bruno Guimaraes start?
MS: “Given everything Howe has said over the past couple of weeks, I’d expect him to again be on the bench. We all want to see Guimaraes play, but Howe’s reluctant to make unenforced changes to a winning team, and you can understand that. Having said that, I’d expect him to get on a bit earlier, with his first two appearances having come very late in games.”
DS: “So far Howe has been vindicated in not starting Guimaraes as Newcastle have been able to pick up maximum points since his arrival on Tyneside. Joelinton, Jonjo Shelvey and Joe Willock have all improved under Howe and it’s difficult to say which player would drop out as any omission would be deemed incredibly harsh after three straight wins. Based on reputation alone, he is Newcastle’s best midfielder, but is he the best midfielder to come into the side at this moment in time? Not while the side is playing so well without him. I would like to see him get more of a run out this time around though as he’ll undoubtedly be frustrated with his lack of action so far.”
What has impressed you most about Newcastle's recent run of form?
MS: “The team has shown different qualities over the past five games. We’ve seen Newcastle attack teams with a welcome fluency and intensity, but we’ve also seen the team dig in and grind out results. Maybe what’s pleased me most is that the team now has an identity, a way of playing.”
DS: “The last three games have provided Newcastle with a new lease of life in the Premier League. They are playing with confidence and keeping the opposition at arm’s length. That’s the most encouraging thing for me – the fact Newcastle are not only beating teams, but they are doing so without having to rely on last-ditch challenges or Martin Dubravka blinders to pick up points. They’re not making things difficult for themselves as they were previously.”
What do Newcastle still need to improve on?
MS: “We need to see improvement all over the pitch, but, before Trippier’s injury, there was no glaring weak point. Defensively, we’ve certainly seen a big improvement over the past few games given that the team’s kept two clean sheets in its last three outings, but decision-making in the final third of the pitch can certainly improve.”
DS: “I still want to see more from Newcastle going forward. The Everton match is the only time in the last 12 games that the side have scored more than one goal. In the last three games, only one of the goals, Ryan Fraser's, has come from open play. Getting Chris Wood on the score sheet would be a huge boost in this department.”