LIVERPOOL: Manager Eddie Howe insists Newcastle United are far from safe in their fight to remain in the Premier League.
Despite defeat in Thursday’s encounter with Everton, Newcastle remain nine points clear of the top-flight drop zone.
The Magpies, still smarting from the late Goodison Park reverse, have a two-week break between games — and on Friday boarded a flight to the Middle East for a warm weather training camp, their second so far this season.
Players will be hosted at Dubai’s Nad Al-Sheba Sports Complex for the next few days.
However, far from relaxing, Howe believes that with 31 points from 29 games, Newcastle still have work to do in their bid to keep their Premier League dream alive.
“We’re not safe. We’ve got a lot of work to do,” he said. “That’s why this really hurts from our perspective because we pride ourselves on giving our best and delivering a really good performance.”
He added: “I don’t think it was there (on Thursday) and we need to look at why.”
Newcastle dominated the opening 45 minutes on Merseyside against the struggling Toffees, but their levels dipped well below recent standards in the second half.
Howe accepts the performance was poor, but rejects suggestions that complacency has crept into his side’s game.
“The players are well aware of that,” the manager replied when asked if his players needed reminding of their predicament.
“I’ve never heard any of the players say that they’re in any way coming off where we need to be, because we know the game can change very quickly and the Premier League is very difficult.”
He added: “We’re absolutely focused on getting the points needed to stay in the division.”
After four games in 13 days, including three in the past eight, Newcastle can be excused an off day or two, especially since they were unbeaten for two-and-a-half months before the narrow, last-minute loss to world and European champions Chelsea on Sunday.
Has fatigue become a factor in the Newcastle ranks? Howe does not believe that is an excuse, or that attitude even comes into the conversation.
“I don’t think you can ever use fatigue as a reason,” he said.
“Yes, players have been in a tough period of games and, yes, there is probably a bit of mental fatigue from the amount of away games we’ve had in a row, but we can’t use that as an excuse — we have to look at ourselves and find the reason why.”
Asked about attitude, Howe was unequivocal in his defense of the Newcastle players.
“I wouldn’t say attitude problems, I wouldn’t go that far. I’d say we fell off our high level of performance,” he said.
“During the unbeaten run we went on, our performance levels were very high. Against Chelsea, I thought, the performance levels were high and in the first half against Everton.
“The second half was probably the worst we’ve played in a while.”
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