The international break could hardly have been better timed for Newcastle with the rigours of competing on multiple fronts having taken a devastating toll on their playing resources.
On Saturday, the Magpies arrived at Bournemouth without 11 senior players as a result of injury and suspension.
Here, the PA news agency takes a look at the issues facing a club which has enjoyed a swift rise under its new owners amid stiff opposition on and off the pitch.
How extensive are Newcastle’s selection problems?
Very. Head coach Eddie Howe was unable to call upon Dan Burn, Sven Botman, Matt Targett, Javier Manquillo, Elliot Anderson, Harvey Barnes, Jacob Murphy, Alexander Isak and Callum Wilson through injury, as well as suspended duo Sandro Tonali and Bruno Guimaraes, at the Vitality Stadium. The Magpies then saw Miguel Almiron added to the list when he limped off after just 31 minutes. Burn, Barnes and Anderson are facing months on the sidelines, while £55million summer signing Tonali will not be able to play again until August next year after admitting breaches of betting regulations.
How much toll have the injuries taken on the pitch?
Until last week, very little, but chickens have started to come home to roost. Howe, who favours a high-pressing game, gambled on leaving Almiron and the in-form Anthony Gordon out of his starting line-up for Tuesday night’s Champions League trip to Borussia Dortmund in the hope they would be able to come off the bench and affect the game late on. In the event, he was forced to introduce them at half-time with Dortmund already leading, and his side was unable to stave off a 2-0 defeat. So depleted were Newcastle’s resources on the south coast four days later that 17-year-old midfielder Lewis Miley was handed a first Premier League start, while 18-year-old striker Ben Parkinson was used as a substitute and Alex Murphy, 19, and Amadou Diallo, 20, were also named on the bench. However, tired legs and minds contributed to a second successive 2-0 loss.
What lies ahead?
If the opening three months of the season have been gruelling, the final two months of 2023 promise to be no less taxing. The Magpies head for Paris St Germain on November 28 and entertain AC Milan on December 13 knowing they may have to win both games to keep alive their first Champions League campaign for 20 years, and having accounted for both Manchester clubs in the Carabao Cup, now travel to Chelsea in the quarter-finals next month. In addition, they face league clashes with improving Chelsea, Manchester United and Tottenham before they head for Liverpool on New Year’s Day as they attempt to fight their way to another top-four finish.
Will they attempt to address the situation in January?
They were always likely to bolster their squad during the winter transfer window, but Tonali’s unexpected absence has made that imperative. However, they also remain short in central defence and attacking roles and all three areas are likely to be focuses.
How might their options be limited?
The club was close to its Financial Fair Play limit at the end of its summer spending spree and sporting director Dan Ashworth has indicated a “creative” approach may be needed, and that could mean loan deals with options to buy. In addition, Premier League shareholders will later this month vote on a proposal to ban loan deals between ‘associated clubs’ – those whose owners hold stakes in other clubs – on an interim basis. Newcastle are 80 per cent-owned by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, which also has controlling interests in Saudi Pro League clubs Al-Ittihad, Al-Ahli, Al-Nassr and Al-Hilal. Agreement would prevent the Magpies from pursuing a long-held interest in Al-Hilal’s former Wolves midfielder Ruben Neves, with whom they have been linked repeatedly in recent weeks.
Is there a need for perspective?
There is. The club sat just one place off the foot of the table when Howe replaced Steve Bruce at the helm in November 2021. They finished fourth last season to secure a place at European football’s top table for the first time in two decades and also reached the Carabao Cup final. They currently lie fourth in Champions League Group F, but have a mathematical chance of making the knockout stage, and are seventh in the Premier League table with another domestic cup run well under way.