Eddie Howe takes his in-form Newcastle United side on the road again to Carrow Road after three successive wins against Wolves, Leicester and Crystal Palace that leaves The Magpies looking up the Premier League table from 11th spot after Miguel Almiron's superb winner put paid to Palace and took The Magpies to the magic 40 point mark:
Its a world away from the situation when a bottom of the table Newcastle side took on Norwich in late November three points behind The Canaries but are now 19 in front.
Premier League survival looked decidedly precarious nine minutes into the Newcastle - Norwich game after Ciaran Clark was sent off for a professional foul on Teemu Pukki against then-relegation rivals The Canaries:
In a strange way, it was a dismissal that had a galvanising effect on Newcastle's season and especially on the Magpies career of Brazilian Joelinton as the tactical reshift caused by going down to 10 men meant he played the game in a deeper combative midfield role and excelled to such an extent that he is now a central midfield fixture in the side in that position and has even been compared to Patrick Vieira and N'golo Kante with Newcastle's positive results being the chief beneficiary:
A three-man Newcastle midfield initially involving Joelinton with JonJo Shelvey and Joe Willock went on a nine-match unbeaten run and latterly a trio of Joelinton, Shelvey and January buy Bruno Guimaraes has been the heart of Newcastle's midfield and produced three straight home victories with Joelinton being the first name on the teamsheet as the much-maligned striker has morphed into a midfield general of some repute.
In 2022, Newcastle have won the most Premier League points except title-chasing Liverpool, who The Magpies play in the next home game and Eddie Howe will want to arrive in that match in top, winning form with Newcastle still having a part to play in the Premier League title race with Man City also to play at The Etihad Stadium.
Eddie Howe will be striving to keep Newcastle's momentum going and finish the season as high up the table as possible with each place in the table worth a few million pounds extra prize money with Newcastle netting £119M for last year's 12th place finish following a win at Fulham on the last day, some £12M more than they would have received had results went a different way on the final day & they had finished 16th.
Although everyone connected with Newcastle is delighted at attaining the objective of staying in The Premier League this season, such has been the team form in 2022 that it raises the question just how high The Magpies could have flown had they not had their momentum disgracefully stopped by dodgy refereeing and VAR at Stamford Bridge against Chelsea, who have suffered several high-profile defeats at home since:
A deserved three points at Stamford Bridge - where Eddie Howe has one of the best ever records of visiting Managers - against the World and European Champions and The Magpies would have carried the momentum into certain victory at Goodison Park and now be genuine challengers for a European spot just three points behind Wolves and its a subject I will revisit in the summer as Newcastle were up against 12 men from the very first game of the 2021/22 season and it must stop next season.
Newcastle will get a chance to rebuild properly in the summer before a season where they can qualify for Europe based on the evidence since the transfer window signings but with European football on offer at St James' Park, the club could have attracted an even higher calibre of player to what is becoming the most attractive project in football.
Norwich Destined For Relegation Again
Barring a miracle, Norwich, the ultimate yo-yo club in the modern era along side Fulham, will be heading for a sixth relegation from The Premier League since its inception and, too good for The Championship but not good enough for the top flight, a yo-yo life of promotion and relegation is now factored into The Canaries business model, maximising relegation parachute payments to win promotion & continue the cycle.
Its a constant rollercoaster for Canaries fans, who like Fulham supporters, see their team win The Championship at a canter then struggle hugely in the much harder Premier League and its been no different this season with Daniel Farke being sacked after 11 games despite a 2-1 win over Brentford that day after some bruising results like the 7-0 defeat against Chelsea that suggested a manager out of his depth and a more pragmatic approach was needed at Carrow Road.
Dean Smith came in fresh from his sacking at Aston Villa just a week earlier and did enjoy a new manager bounce initially with a win at Southampton and draws with Wolves and Newcastle but the status quo was quickly established with heavy defeats against Spurs 3-0 and Arsenal 5-0 before back-to-back wins against Everton & Watford offered some hope but with just one win in 10 are against Burnley are rooted to the bottom.
Norwich have conceded four hat-tricks in the 2021/22 season & Newcastle are yet to have a player score one but a striker like Chris Wood will still be hoping to hit double figures this season and scored a hat-trick against Wolves last year for Burnley & will be busting a gust if selected not to mention Dwight Gayle, who hit a brace in pre-season against Norwich at St James' Park and former NUFC keeper Tim Krul and has scored a hat-trick previously against Norwich in the 2016/7 Championship winning season..
After three home games in quick succession, Eddie Howe might be tempted to shuffle his pack of players and in his pre-match presser he said he may "freshen things up" so there could be changes to the hard-working line-up that have done so well and give starts to players like Joe Willock and Sean Longstaff who are champing at the bit:
Yet Howe was adamant that Newcastle would be approaching the game with the same high standards in order to go for another win:
Prediction - Newcastle 3 Norwich 1