The one thing that's (almost) out of Eddie Howe's control at Newcastle United
There’s a lot that Eddie Howe can control as Newcastle United head coach.
Howe, appointed last week, has already upped the intensity in training at the relegation-threatened club.
The 43-year-old has brought with him a clear vision of how the team will be with and without the ball over the coming weeks and months.
"We have a way of playing in and out of possession – (it’s) very, very clear,” said Howe. “We’ll try to get that message across to the players. It's up to them to deliver it.
"There's pressure on the players. There’s pressure on me, of course. It's a two-way thing. We’re going to work together on a style of football that’s in keeping with the tradition of the club while getting results.”
Fans, used to Steve Bruce chopping and changing systems, have long called for their team to have a post-Rafa Benitez identity on the pitch.
Bruce, repeatedly, tried to transition to a more attacking style of play, but, time and again, he has switched back to a more defensive, counter-attacking game, and his former assistant Graeme Jones, by necessity, had to tighten things up for his three games in temporary charge. Will Howe fare any better in re-shaping the team?
Supporters will get the first look at the team under Howe on Saturday when Brentford visit St James’s Park.
Howe outlined his immediate priorities at his first press conference last week. The 43-year-old was also asked about January’s transfer window given the clear need for the club, which only signed one player – former loanee Joe Willock – in the summer, to strengthen.
“I see all the reports linking Newcastle with this player and that player, it doesn’t do any good for the players who are here reading that,” said Howe. “I would urge you (the media) not to speculate too much. For me, it’s the team in the here and now that is my only focus.”
Howe reiterated his appeal over transfer speculation once the tape recorders were turned off following an impressive first appearance before the cameras at St James’s Park.
One thing Howe can’t influence is speculation, but that doesn’t mean he can’t try to dampen it.
The club, branded the “richest in the world” following last month’s £300million sale to a powerful consortium which includes Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, is again being linked with big names, among them Jesse Lingard and Philippe Coutinho, given the financial resources of its owners.
Howe, however, doesn’t need superstars right now. He needs talented players prepared to give their all for a club which is five points adrift of safety with 11 games played.
The squad needs to be improved in the window, but Howe’s also backing himself to improve the players, individually and collectively, in the meantime.
That’s his “main focus”, but Howe, the club’s football advisors and head of recruitment Steve Nickson will have lists of potential transfer targets.
In the meantime, the players already at the club must prove themselves all over again.
“Yes, it's a clean slate, but I have opinions of them,” said Howe. “I’ve got a very good idea of the squad’s strengths.”
Howe, clearly, also knows the squad’s weaknesses, and speculation will only intensify about the identities of those players being lined up to strengthen those areas.