The SIX key changes that inspired Newcastle United success – plus the takeover tweet that allowed people to believe again

The players needed it, the manager did, too. The fans yearned for it and Newcastle United’s league predicament required it.

Sunday, 31st January 2021, 12:00 pm
Updated Sunday, 31st January 2021, 1:38 pm

Change. It’s been the word on the tip of everyone’s tongue for months. None more so than in the week leading up to Everton, which if not won would have taken the Magpies to 12 without victory.

It may not be the change many thought they wanted, but has proven to be just enough to deliver what they needed.

Three points, a goalscoring drought ended and a gap reopened to the bottom three. Our writer Liam Kennedy takes a look at the SIX key tweaks that saw United put in their best performance of the season at Goodison Park – and the takeover tweet that has got the fanbase believing again.

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LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - JANUARY 30: Callum Wilson of Newcastle United celebrates with teammates Jonjo Shelvey, Isaac Hayden, Fabian Schar and Jamal Lewis after scoring his team's second goal during the Premier League match between Everton and Newcastle United at Goodison Park on January 30, 2021 in Liverpool, England. Sporting stadiums around the UK remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Molly Darlington - Pool/Getty Images)

Graeme Jones’ Belgium blueprint

Newcastle United were transformed against Everton – and none of it bore the hallmarks of Steve Bruce’s last 18 months on Tyneside.

He claimed he wanted to do it ‘his way’ but that ‘way’ saw three games – against Arsenal, Aston Villa and Leeds United – return a aggregate score of 7-1, to the opposition.

Graeme Jones has come in and all of a sudden United are pressing high, they have a system that suits their players and the approach seems totally different from the passive, sit back of the previous year and a half.

Don’t be fooled, this is no coincidence. I know fans are not.

Jones is unlikely to be the answer for United long-term, but his fresh ideas may well be just enough to keep the wolf from the door this season.

That approach, at times, looked very Roberto Martinez-like at Belgium. With Callum Wilson out wide, traded for Romelu Lukaku, and Miguel Almiron playing the central attacker role of an Eden Hazard.

Wilson repositioning pays dividends

A sole, central threat, or lack of it. That’s how Wilson’s performances have looked in recent weeks, even when he had the ‘support’ of Andy Carroll.

The 10-goal frontman played off a wide role at Goodison Park – a new one for him in black and white. And it worked a treat.

Five clear-cut chances for the former Bournemouth man, two goals, two off the woodwork and one sitter missed. He said he was disappointed he didn’t get a hattrick, but let’s be realistic here, he’ll be delighted to get five opportunities in a game. I’d be surprised if he’s had five chances since mid-December, before yesterday’s game.

The high press – that’s how to do it RIGHT

Press as one, it’s doomed to fail. Press as a pack and you’ve got half a chance.

One of the key areas Jones worked on with the United team this week was pressing as a unit.

And it’s fair to say it was a resounding success.

Bruce has tried a press at places like Southampton with limited success. The problem being that pressing in ones and twos is pointless.

Better teams will pass around United in this league, but on the day they were more than a match for Everton’s strong-on-paper looking midfield.

It’s amazing how much more progressive it is to win the ball further up the park – and what you can do with it in more advanced positions.

Miguel Almiron a central threat

We’ve seen him out wide, deep and as a No.10. Almiron did not play any of those roles in a traditional sense at Goodison.

The Paraguayan was given more freedom to roam in his role and from a very central, very advanced position, often at times being the furthest forward, almost striker-like role.

It worked for the player. And it worked for United. We’ve not been able to say that all that often this season.

No player on the park worked harder than Almiron. And that smile returned to his face. Long may it continue.

Midfield three with a solid base

Isaac Hayden sat while Jeff Hendrick and Jonjo Shelvey worked alongside him.

On first viewing many thought it would be more of the same, that distinct lack of dynamism in the centre of the park. It wasn’t. Something was different.

Hayden has cut one of the most frustrated figures with Bruce and his tactics in recent weeks – and being played in his correct role, with a fresh voice on the sidelines, seems to have helped no end.

Hendrick and Shelvey, too, were better, even if the latter still needs to up his workrate and responsibility off the ball.

Newcastle’s most improved player

He’s taken the stick this season but it’s easy to see how a manager can see a player in Jamal Lewis.

When defending, at times, he can be caught out. But it has to be remembered he’s a young player, still making his way in the game.

When allowed to advance and get involved in attacks, he’s transformed.

We maybe need to take the rough with the smooth with the Northern Ireland international.

And the takeover tweet that’s got people talking

Two words. Rarely ever have so few words meant so much to so many.

"Get in!!!” was all it took from PCP Capital Partners’ Merhdad Ghodoussi’s Twitter account – yes, it is real and genuine – to send the Magpies fanbase into overdrive.

If there was any doubt, PCP are still there and the takeover is still on their agenda then this should be proof enough.

Ghodoussi, Amanda Staveley’s husband, celebrated the win like a fan. One day, we all hope, he’ll be able to do that from the directors’ box at St James’s Park.

Talk this week was of ‘if we get relegated will the deal be dead?’… Now fans can believe again. Four wins to go (probably).

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