Football: Five players who made a name for themselves at Asian Cup

Football: Five players who made a name for themselves at Asian Cup
Football: Five players who made a name for themselves at Asian Cup

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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - Eddie Howe admits Newcastle have made ‘mistakes’ this season as injury crisis grows

NEWCASTLE: Newcastle United head coach Eddie Howe admitted “mistakes” have been made this season, as he further counted the cost of yet more injuries to key figures in his squad.

The Magpies have had to deal with an unusually lengthy list of long-term injuries this season, with important players such as Callum Wilson, Nick Pope, Joe Willock and Harvey Barnes missing huge chunks of the campaign.

Now it seems that just as some of those players are beginning to return — Barnes and Wilson were declared fit last week — others are replacing them in the treatment room. Anthony Gordon and Alexander Isak, for example, have both been ruled out of the club’s trip to Nottingham Forest this weekend.

While Newcastle have undoubtedly been very unfortunate on the injuries front this season, head coach Howe has, for the first time, accepted a portion of the blame for the dire situation and admitted mistakes have been made.

“We went into this season with a squad built to cope with all the demands we would face and all the competitions we would play in,” he said. “Unfortunately for us, we hope it’s been a one-off season, not just the number of injuries we have had but the length of time those players have been out for.

“That has been the most difficult thing for us to deal with. You can handle one or two, but it has been three of four months for five, six, eight players. There has been no light at the end of the tunnel and then your squad is stretched and you get more injuries.

“Certainly, we have made mistakes. Certainly we could do things better. And then you add Sandro’s situation on top of that in an area of the team where we could not afford that to happen, we have lost him as well.”

Italian midfielder Sandro Tonali was banned for nine months for breaking gambling rules.

“Of course when you have the number of injuries we have had, some of those have come from too much load or maybe our programs are not good enough in the gym,” said Howe. “The players do a lot of work. They don’t just go out on the training pitch, they do a lot of gym work, a lot of different things.

“If we are sitting here going, ‘We have not made any mistakes,’ I think we are being fools here. So of course we analyze everything. So when I say we are — I include everyone at the football club, no individual, no individual department — we are all in it together, of course we have to look at that and respond and improve. It’s been one of those seasons where you can feel everything has gone against us.”

Knocks to the normally ever-present Gordon and top scorer Isak have certainly added to the feeling of injustice. And while Howe now has Wilson available to start, it looks like Barnes, after five months out, will still not be risked from the start at the City Ground on Saturday.

“Callum has trained well this week, we’ve been really pleased with him. I thought he did well last week in his 45-minute cameo,” said Howe, referring to Wilson’s half-time return in the 4-4 home draw with Luton Town last Saturday.

“Prior to that game he hadn’t really trained with the team, so he was thrust back into action. But he looks good, he’s getting his sharpness back and had a good week in front of goal. I’d say he is (fit to start).”

Barnes came on as a substitute after 63 minutes last Saturday and scored his team’s forth goal of the day 10 minutes later.

“Harvey has worked incredibly hard,” Howe said. “It’s been frustrating for him and I know he’s had that frustration internally for a long time, where he just didn’t feel right. He was working hard but still feeling some sensations in his foot but we saw his quality (last weekend) — what a finish that was on his wrong side from that distance.

“He only really had a small part of the goal to aim at and he finished it brilliantly. That moment summed up what we missed from potential substitutes when you’re struggling in the game and you need to change the flow and momentum. We haven’t had those options for a number of weeks. It was a big moment for us.”

One player who continues to be instrumental for the Magpies is Bruno Guimaraes. However, Howe is facing the prospect of losing his Brazilian talisman for two games, as he has notched up nine yellow cards in the league this season. One more will trigger the ban, which would further weaken the United ranks in a position where all three fit and available midfielders are playing, with no one in reserve.

Howe doesn’t believe this means Guimaraes should ease back on his combative style, however.

“He has to play in that line,” the coach said. “He is the type of player that has to be emotionally, committed to produce his best performance. I think he’ll be frustrated with some of the bookings he’s picked up this year but that’s all part of the learning process.

“Yes, he’s in a dangerous place for us; we don’t want to lose him and we’re desperate for him to stay available but hopefully he can keep his emotions under control and we can get through this period.

“He’s such a vital player as you saw near the end against Luton. His cross for Kieran Trippier’s goal and his cross for Jacob Murphy’s chance at the end was an incredible bit of play.”

Meanwhile, Howe also had thoughts about the possible introduction of a “blue card” that referees could use to punish cynical fouls by banishing offenders to a “sin bin” for 10 minutes.

Much like his opinions on the video assistant referee, which are not complimentary, he is not in favor of the suggested change.

“I’m not a big fan, to be honest,” he said. “I think that’s what yellow cards are for. I think the current system works well, it’s just got to be applied right. I think adding a blue card would just add more confusion, in my opinion, so I’m against it.”

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