NEWCASTLE: Eddie Howe believes he has some difficult decisions ahead on the future of his Newcastle United squad as the head coach reiterated his evolution, not revolution summer mantra.
The Magpies were hammered 5-0 by Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City on Sunday, hot off the back of a 1-0 home reverse against fellow title challengers Liverpool.
And while this sequence of results has seen many leap to the conclusion that the Newcastle squad needs a complete revamp to compete with the Premier League’s current top two, Howe is not in that mindset.
“There’s a huge gap between us, Liverpool and Manchester City, but I would say there is the same gap for most of the clubs in the Premier League,” he said. “Now we have to try and close that gap through the seasons. That, I think, requires evolution, not revolution. You’ve got to be very careful you don’t change too much too quickly. We’re looking to improve every day and improve in every transfer window, but I think it has to be small gradual steps.
“There’s no magic wand, no quick fix. It’s hard work and obviously smart moves in trying to improve the team.”
Arab News understands the Magpies will look to sign at least five players this summer to refresh their squad, a group that has fought or flirted with relegation for much of their time since promotion in 2017.
Howe, in recent interviews, has focussed on the qualities of his current group, and his words could have been mistaken for a manager keen to retain almost every member of his 25-man Premier League squad.
That’s not the case, as Howe now admits.
“Every summer I have been in management I have had difficult decisions to make at the end of a season. Players that you love and have a great relationship with sometimes have to leave for the benefit of the team. This season is no different. I am sure there will be players who leave who have represented the club in a brilliant way. But those decisions can wait for the end of the season.
“Right now, it is about making judgments and assessments on everybody I am working with. Training, the training ground is an important place, I am making judgments there, and on days like today I am making judgments on performances I see, that is natural.”
One player who has been subject to recent exit speculation has been Allan Saint-Maximin, particularly after some misguided and supposedly misconstrued comments about his teammates in the French press.
Following last weekend’s defeat to Liverpool, Saint-Maximin was quoted in the publication So Foot as saying: “Those who have played with me know very well that in terms of pure quality, I have nothing to envy from Sadio Mane.
“The day when I have a player capable of finishing the actions (assists), I will have seasons with 10-15 assists, and I will change opinions in the people’s heads. Doing things that make an impression, changing the rules, that’s the goal. Like what Michael Jordan managed to do. Jordan, he changed some people’s lives, he gave people work, and that’s the beauty of it.”
His words did not go down well with his teammates or Howe and the player was forced into a dressing-room explanation and apology.
Saint-Maximin did, of course, start and play the full 90 minutes at the Etihad on Sunday. And when asked about where the situation lies, Howe replied: “Yeah, all good. We have moved on internally as a squad. I thought Maxi, you saw in the second half, was a counterthreat. He had moments. But I think when you play against Manchester City you only ever get sporadic moments. It is so difficult to get the ball off them.
“He would have been frustrated as you want more of the ball, more of a chance to impact, but it is difficult, as a team, to get enough possession to see your attacking players really influence the match.”
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