Eddie Howe attempted to motivate Newcastle United players by playing video of some of the Entertainers’ best performances at a team meeting last week.
The visitors preserved another clean sheet in a goalless draw at the Amex, but Newcastle had to play a totally different kind of football to earn a point against Brighton on Saturday.
Champions After Newcastle preserved clean sheets in their first two games of the season, Man City is currently the only other Premier League team that has yet to let up a goal.
To put things in perspective, Newcastle allowed six goals in their opening two games of the previous campaign against West Ham and Aston Villa, and it took them until December to even score their first goal in their top flight game.
The fact that Brighton had seven times as many shots on target as Newcastle did on Saturday served as a reminder of Newcastle’s need for forward reinforcements, but Howe’s team will keep winning with this tenacious backline.
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In reality, after the addition of Nick Pope, Kieran Trippier, Matt Targett, Dan Burn, and Sven Botman during the previous seven months, what was once a weakness is now the team’s undeniable strength.
Newcastle’s performances used to suffer when a regular starter got hurt, but when Targett’s dead leg forced him to miss the trip to Brighton, Howe simply switched Burn to left-back and gave Botman his entire debut.
Burn had not even previously played a game at left-back for Newcastle; this team had never played together in the Premier League, yet the Magpies still managed to keep a clean sheet.
Although the visitors undoubtedly had luck on their side, Newcastle’s defence would have broken under such strain in the oppressive weather in years past. Nick Pope, the goalkeeper, produced outstanding stops to stop Adam Lallana and Solly March, and Kieran Trippier and Fabian Schar also cleared shots off the line to help Howe’s team repel Brighton.
It was a stark contrast to Newcastle’s performance against freshly promoted Nottingham Forest one week prior, when they turned up their best performance in years. Steve Cooper’s team was unable to even get a shot on goal.
However, there will be occasions in the upcoming months when Newcastle will need to fight and persist, just like they did against Brighton. The Newcastle manager is willing to do “everything it takes” to earn points, as Howe stated earlier this month.
These players already possess that ability from pulling together to escape danger the previous season, and Howe has put in place a leadership group to guarantee that standards do not slip. Burn, for instance, pushed his squad to exert more effort during a keep-ball exercise during the warm-up on Saturday as he repeatedly clapped his hands.
A few minutes later, Burn was leading the cries of “Come on, let’s go!” as he headed back to the Amex as the players lined up in the tunnel.
Allan Saint-Maximin was once made aware of Sven Botman’s unmarked position by Burn on the left side of the field after the Frenchman had picked up the ball, and Trippier was as outspoken on the other side.
Even throughout the water breaks, the stand-in skipper kept his team members informed and used his knowledge to diffuse tense situations that arose before the hour mark.
After shepherding the ball out for a goal kick, Brighton wing-back Solly March made an overly aggressive move to lift the Brazilian player off the ground, which infuriated Joelinton. When Joelinton and March confronted one other and began shoving one another, Trippier intervened to stop the incident before it spread to other people.
Joelinton may get himself sent off, so Trippier drew the midfielder out of the fray so they could have a private conversation. After leading Joelinton and March to the official for bookings, Trippier put his arm around each player and made a show of encouraging them to shake hands in front of the official.
Before signalling to his teammates to calm down by dropping his arms when the game resumed, Trippier pointed to his temples and cautioned them to play smart. Over the course of a whole season, these minor interventions pile up. They contributed to the visitors’ point on Saturday.