Lee Charnley has left his role as managing director at Newcastle United following the club's lucrative takeover.

Charnley worked his way through the ranks at St James' Park across 22 years, holding positions before, during and briefly after Mike Ashley's unpopular tenure.

With Ashley increasingly absent from the day-to-day running at Newcastle, Charnley took on increased responsibilities while still reporting back to the owner.

He remained in his role initially when a consortium backed by Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund bought the club for £305million last month.

Although reports this week indicated Charnley had hopes of remaining at Newcastle, his departure was confirmed on Friday.

"To have been at Newcastle United for 22 years has been an honour and a privilege, and the club, its people and our city will always be very special to me," Charnley said in a club statement.

"As it enters a new chapter in its history under new owners, I wish Amanda [Staveley], the rest of the board and everyone connected with the club every success."

Newcastle have been linked with a move for former Chelsea director of football Michael Emenalo, who could be appointed to a similar role on Tyneside.

That hire is set to work alongside Charnley's replacement, as the statement added: "The club's new board will continue to oversee all operations. The club has also begun a formal recruitment process to appoint a CEO and will make an announcement in due course."

New head coach Eddie Howe is set to take charge of his first Newcastle game on Saturday at home to Brentford.

Charnley was said to be involved in the recruitment process that saw Howe hired after Villarreal boss Unai Emery snubbed the Premier League strugglers.

Arsenal could look to offload Nicolas Pepe in the January transfer window.

The 26-year-old has not lived up to his billing after being signed in 2019.

Pepe has scored once in nine appearances for the Gunners this season.

 

TOP STORY – MILAN SET FOR JANUARY PEPE SWOOP

Italian giants Milan are interested in signing Arsenal's Ivorian winger Nicolas Pepe, claims Il Milanista.

Pepe has more than two years to run on his Gunners deal, having joined on a five-year contract from Lille in 2019 for a club-record fee of £72 million (€79m).

Arsenal may be willing to let Pepe go for a little as £25m in January.

ROUND-UP 

- Chelsea's Spanish full-back Cesar Azpilicueta is on Barcelona's transfer radar, according to SPORT. The 32-year-old's contract expires at the end of this season.

- Tottenham have joined Inter in having an interest in signing Bayern Munich midfielder Corentin Tolisso, claims Kicker. Tolisso is out of contract at the end of this season.

- Fabrizio Romano reports that talks between Gavi and Barcelona on a five-year contract extension are progressing amid interest in the Spanish teenager from Chelsea.

- Jose Mourinho's Roma are considering a move to sign Atletico Madrid's Mexico international midfielder Hector Herrera in January, claims Calciomercato. Atletico are willing to cash in on Herrera, who is out of contract in mid-2022.

- Manchester City target Theo Hernandez is close to completing a contract renewal with Milan, according to Rudy Galetti. The Rossoneri have reached an agreement with him until 2026.

- FotoMac claims Mohamed Elneny's agent has reached an agreement with Arsenal for the Egyptian to leave in January. He was previously linked with Galatasaray.

- Lens midfielder Seko Fofana has been added to Newcastle United's shortlist of transfer targets, claims Foot Mercato.

After two weeks on the training ground, Eddie Howe returns to the Premier League arena as head coach of Newcastle United on Saturday.

Now working for Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund, the world's richest football club owner, Howe needs results fast with Newcastle second from bottom and five points from safety.

Indeed, the Magpies have endured the worst start to a league season in their history after a 1-1 draw at Brighton and Hove Albion prior to the international break extended their winless run to 11 matches.

For all the talk of exciting January moves for Philippe Coutinho, Ousmane Dembele or Marc-Andre ter Stegen – Barcelona's expensively assembled squad, reports say, is ripe for picking – there is a job to do first, and that starts at home to Brentford.

Burnley and Norwich City, the previous two teams to break winless starts before Newcastle, got their first victories against Brentford, yet just one of the Magpies' past eight bosses has won his first Premier League match in charge of the club (Alan Pardew versus Liverpool in 2010).

Has Howe, who rescued Bournemouth from relegation out of the Football League and took them all the way to the top flight, already had an impact on Tyneside?

Saturday's encounter at St James' Park should tell us plenty – and these are the key themes to look out for...

Fix the defence

The biggest worry around both Newcastle and Howe relates to their defensive records.

Only Norwich (26) have conceded more goals than Newcastle (24) this season, while the Magpies' opponents have had a league-high 21.6 expected goals. That back line clearly needs attention.

But Howe's Bournemouth conceded at least 61 goals in each of their five seasons in the top flight, making him far from an obvious candidate to address Newcastle's biggest need.

There is a lack of quality options within that defence, but Graeme Jones, the interim coach who has taken a role on Howe's staff, attempted to stem the tide during his short reign as the main man.

At odds with the more aggressive pressing approach Howe is likely to adopt, Jones' side sat deep. Across games against Crystal Palace, Chelsea and Brighton, Newcastle had the highest PPDA (an incredibly passive 22.6 opposition passes per defensive action) and the second-deepest average starting position (just 37.5 metres from their own goal) in the league. The Magpies still conceded five times and earned only two points.

Regardless of what changes Howe makes at the back – and there have to be changes – those in front also require greater co-ordination.

In Sean Longstaff (52.9), Joe Willock (49.9) and Miguel Almiron (49.7), Newcastle have players who rank first, fifth and sixth among central midfielders for pressures per 90 minutes this season. Their haphazard pressing, lacking any clear cohesion, has succeeded only in leaving gaps behind them, however.

Neither Longstaff nor Willock featured at Brighton, while Almiron played on the right flank and was taken off after 74 minutes.

Keep the ball

The pressure on Newcastle's defence would be relieved by an ability to keep the ball for any extended period. Their average possession of 37.3 per cent is comfortably the lowest in the division this season.

But that is nothing new; Newcastle have ranked in the bottom three in this regard in each season since they were promoted in 2017.

"We hopefully have nudged it along a little bit this week," Jones said before the Brighton game, where Newcastle had just 34.1 per cent of the ball. "You can't go from how we played against Chelsea and Crystal Palace to being Barcelona overnight. It's impossible, so it needs to be small steps."

Howe, Newcastle will hope, should be able to help with those steps. Since Bournemouth were first promoted, only Leeds United last season (57.8 per cent) have averaged more possession in their first year in the Premier League than the Cherries in 2015-16 (51.1 per cent).

Although Bournemouth's possession figures then dropped with each campaign until they were relegated with 43.4 per cent of the ball, Howe has the opportunity to make a strong start against a Brentford side who rank 15th in the division for possession (44.9 per cent).

Feed the forwards

Having more possession should fit hand in hand with getting Newcastle's dangerous attacking players on the ball more often. Callum Wilson and Allan Saint-Maximin have too often been isolated.

"We have been a lot further from the goal than we'd like to be," Wilson told Chronicle Live this week.

The certainty of a full-time appointment should at least allow Newcastle to settle on a system that suits both players after drastically shifting their approach following each miserable run of Steve Bruce's tenure. Tactical flexibility, as Howe should show, is one thing, having no proven plan to fall back on is another. At Bournemouth, that was some variation on a 4-4-2.

Even with Newcastle struggling, Wilson has managed to score 16 goals since the start of last season. Among the 14 players to net 15 or more in that time, only Mohamed Salah (127), Harry Kane (163) and Dominic Calvert-Lewin (164) have averaged fewer minutes per goal than the Magpies' number nine (167).

"A fit Callum Wilson is as good as anybody in the Premier League," Jones said.

Of course, Howe has experience with Wilson and with Ryan Fraser, both of whom he brought to Bournemouth.

Under Howe in 2018-19, Wilson and Fraser combined for 12 Premier League goals – at that time, the second most of any duo in the competition's history in a single season, behind Alan Shearer and Chris Sutton (13 in 1995-96).

Wilson added: "I am exactly the same as the manager coming in – he's got this attacking style of play. As a striker, you are licking your lips knowing you are going to get more opportunities."

If Howe can help the ex-Bournemouth pair reprise that form and build some sort of platform behind them, Newcastle should yet have enough to survive – perhaps boosted by a winning start against Brentford.

The Premier League has announced that chairman Gary Hoffman is stepping down from his post.

Hoffman is resigning after less than two years in the role, only being appointed in April last year and officially starting two months later.

He will not leave until the end of January, although no replacement has yet been selected.

Hoffman was reportedly the subject of an unofficial vote of confidence by Premier League chairmen last week. 

The 61-year-old is said to have come under scrutiny from clubs over the handling and approval of Newcastle United's contentious, Saudi-backed takeover.

Clubs complained that they had not been consulted fully over the decision.

The Premier League released a statement on Wednesday thanking Hoffman for his work and revealing that the search for a new chairman has begun.

"The Premier League is grateful to Gary for his committed service," the statement read. "He has led the League during the most challenging period in its history and leaves it in a stronger position than ever.

"The process of appointing a new Chair will begin immediately."

Hoffman also spoke about his pride at having held the role and explained the reasoning behind his decision to resign.

"It has been a privilege to lead the Premier League through the last two seasons – when the spirit of English football has been more important than ever," Hoffman said.

"Now, I have decided the time is right for me to stand aside to allow new leadership to steer the League through its next exciting phase."

Real Madrid are well-known admirers of Kylian Mbappe.

The Spanish giants have been linked with a January move for the winger.

Mbappe has indicated he will leave Paris Saint-Germain in the near future.

 

TOP STORY – REAL TO REMAIN PATIENT FOR MBAPPE

Real Madrid will not chase a deal for Paris Saint-Germain's Mbappe during the January transfer window, claims Mundo Deportivo.

Los Blancos have been pursuing the 22-year-old France international who is out of contract at the end of this season.

There had been speculation about when Madrid would move for Mbappe, given his contract status, but it is anticipated they will patiently wait until the off-season when he is a free agent.

ROUND-UP 

- Sky Sports Germany claims that Juventus could make a move for Borussia Dortmund midfielder Axel Witsel in January. The report claims that Witsel is keen on a quick move.

- Philippe Coutinho is set to snub cashed-up Newcastle United in January as he does not want to leave Barcelona, claims Sport.

- Barcelona are set to table a €40million offer for Red Bull Salzburg forward Karim Adeyemi according to Sport1, although Dortmund remain favourites to sign the teenager.

- Wolverhampton are ready to cash in Spanish winger Adama Traore in January with Barcelona circling to rival Liverpool for his signature, reports 90min.

- Former Chelsea manager Frank Lampard is not in consideration for the vacant Rangers head coaching position following Steven Gerrard's exit, reports Sky Sports.

Barcelona have accelerated a shake-up at Camp Nou by allowing technical secretary Ramon Planes to leave the club.

Planes, who was recently linked with a switch to Newcastle United, heads out of Barcelona within a fortnight of Xavi arriving as head coach.

He had a contract running through to the end of this season but will depart with immediate effect, having requested to be freed from his deal.

Barcelona said in a statement: "FC Barcelona and Ramon Planes have reached an agreement to terminate the contract that bound both parties until 30 June 2022, at the request of the man who had until now been the club's technical secretary.

"The club wishes to publicly express its gratitude to Ramon Planes for his commitment, professionalism and contributions throughout this last two years, and wishes him the best of luck and every success in the future."

Spanish sports daily Marca last week claimed there had already been contact between Planes and Newcastle, who are newly wealthy after a takeover by the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund but are also fighting a Premier League relegation battle.

Newcastle have appointed Eddie Howe as their new head coach but are seeking reinforcements to their staff elsewhere, and recruiting a man who has spent three and a half years at Barcelona would be seen as a coup, despite the LaLiga team having struggled in recent times.

Planes joined from Getafe in 2018 and was initially assistant technical secretary to Eric Abidal before taking on the lead role in August 2020.

His exit continues the process of overhauling Barcelona's football staff since Joan Laporta was elected as president in March.

The team sit ninth in LaLiga after winning just four of their opening 12 games, managing 19 goals so far from an expected goals (xG) tally of 21.03. Expected goals totals are judged by quality of chances.

Since the 2010-11 season, the point from which Opta has such records available, Barcelona have always exceeded their xG across a LaLiga season. Last term, before Lionel Messi's exit, they scored 85 goals from an xG score of 73.96.

Patience in former head coach Ronald Koeman ran out in October, paving the way for club legend Xavi to return to the club from Qatari club Al Sadd.

The departure of Planes will allow Xavi and Laporta to build their own leadership group.

Xavi is set for his first match as head coach when Barcelona host Espanyol in Saturday's derby.

Real Madrid are trying to offload a pair of veterans to Tottenham. 

Eden Hazard and Gareth Bale could be on the way out at the Santiago Bernabeu. 

Spurs are reportedly only interested in one of them.

 

TOP STORY – SPURS WEIGH BALE REUNION

Gareth Bale could be headed for a permanent return to Tottenham, El Nacional reports. 

Real Madrid have offered Bale and Eden Hazard to Spurs but head coach Antonio Conte is not interested in his former Chelsea player. 

However, Spurs may pounce for Bale at a reduced price before he is out of contract following the season.

 

ROUND-UP

Manchester United are interested in adding France defender Jules Kounde to replace Harry Maguire, says Todofichajes, which reports Sevilla will demand €80million (£68m) in return. 

Donny van de Beek wants out at United, according to the Metro, and Birmingham Live says Wolves will make a strong push to sign the Dutch midfielder, with Everton and Newcastle United also rumoured suitors.

- Fiorentina are willing to sell Dusan Vlahovic in January if an interested club like Manchester City or Tottenham will pay £70m for the Serbia international, says the Sun. Vlahovic has also been linked with Bayern MunichAtletico Madrid, Juventus, Inter and Arsenal.

Milan have joined Chelsea and Atletico in pursuit of 17-year-old Angers striker Mohamed-Ali Cho, according to L'Equipe. 

Barcelona will extend 17-year-old Spain sensation Gavi's contract for five years, reports Fabrizio Romano. 

Dean Smith's appointment at Norwich City is expected to become official Monday, says The Guardian. 

Chelsea are not content to stick with what they have. 

The Blues are top of the Premier League but poised for major moves in January.

Three young stars and a veteran are high on their radar. 

 

TOP STORY – CHELSEA EYE REINFORCEMENTS

Chelsea have their sights set on moves for Jules Kounde, Matthijs de Ligt and Lorenzo Insigne, reports Marca, while another report has them as the favourites to land Aurelien Tchouameni

The Blues are poised to revisit their talks with Sevilla over Kounde in January with multiple centre-backs set to be out of contract at the end of the season. 

Thomas Tuchel's side could also dip into Serie A and try to lure De Ligt from Juventus and Insigne from Napoli.

Chelsea are prepared to offer €60million (£51m) to Monaco for Tchouameni, says TuttoJuve, with Manchester City, Liverpool, Real Madrid and Juventus also possibilities. 

 

ROUND-UP

- Barcelona are eyeing Christian Pulisic, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Hakim Ziyech as possible loan options from Chelsea, says Sport. 

- Manchester United are pushing to line up Zinedine Zidane to replace Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, reports The Sunday Times.

- United are prepared to sell Jesse Lingard for as little as £10m in January, says The Sun. 

- Roma are in negotiations with United over a loan deal with an option to buy Diogo Dalot, claims Corriere dello Sport. 

- Inter will bring aboard Ajax goalkeeper Andre Onana on a four-year deal, reports Fabrizio Romano. 

- Newcastle United will try to land Adrien Rabiot from Juventus for €10m to €15m (£8.5m-£13m), says Calciomercato. 

Eddie Howe acknowledges the thought of spending Newcastle United's riches in January is "exciting" but his immediate focus is on getting the best out of the club's existing playing squad.

Newcastle were taken over last month by a consortium backed by Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund, which became the richest football club owner in the world.

New director Amanda Staveley has spoken of targeting a Premier League title win in the next five to 10 years, with heavy investment expected to transform the team.

A host of high-profile players have been linked, including Barcelona trio Philippe Coutinho, Ousmane Dembele and Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

But Newcastle have nine Premier League fixtures to negotiate before the transfer window opens at the start of 2022 and sit five points adrift of safety in 19th place.

Howe was appointed as head coach this week but takes charge of a team winless in 11 this term, Newcastle's worst start to a league season in their history.

The four most recent examples of teams going 11 or more without a win in the Premier League ended in relegation, meaning Howe cannot afford to wait for new signings.

"That is exciting, but it's potentially far away for us," Howe told Sky Sports.

"January windows? I'm not sure, they're very unpredictable. Even to plan now is sometimes foolish, because things change at other clubs very, very quickly; players that may be available suddenly aren't available.

"We can't put our eggs in that basket, for me. If we don't get the players who are currently at this football club performing as well as they can do, it's not going to work.

"At the moment, I'm not looking at the January transfer window. All the speculation regarding players, which I've seen, is not relevant to us at this time.

"I can assure everybody my focus has been on the players we do have and will remain on the players we do have, because they're the ones that will ultimately be trying to get results for us between then and now."

One of the current Newcastle players of immediate interest to Howe is Allan Saint-Maximin, the team's talismanic winger who enjoyed a close relationship with previous coach Steve Bruce.

After two goals and three assists in his first six league games this season, Saint-Maximin is without a goal involvement in five matches – including four since the takeover was completed and three since Bruce was sacked.

Howe knows all about the player's ability, though. As Bournemouth manager, he provided the opposition for the only game in Saint-Maximin's career in which he has supplied three assists, back in July 2020 in a 4-1 Newcastle win.

"I'm really, really pleased to be working with Maxi," Howe said. "I think he's a very, very unique talent. He's a game-winner, a real difference-maker for us.

"First of all, we have to find a way to function as a team to get the best out of him. But he has to also contribute to the team – the two things go hand in hand.

"I'm really excited to try to figure out ways to play to his best levels, and his response in the two days [of training] has been excellent."

New Newcastle United head coach Eddie Howe insisted joining the club was "a football decision" as he faced questions over the human rights record of Saudi Arabia.

A consortium that included Saudi Arabia's public wealth fund took control of Newcastle in a reported £305million deal, which was approved by the Premier League last month.

The takeover has been met with criticism from some supporters due to Saudi Arabia's human rights record, but new Magpies manager Howe was reluctant to debate the topic.

Ex-Bournemouth boss Howe maintained that he was only focused on football and the stature of the Tyneside club when he decided to take the job.

"Naturally, this is a football decision," Howe said at his official unveiling. "I'm absolutely delighted to be the manager of Newcastle. 

"My focus is football. Running the team, managing the players. That's all I'm going to talk about and that's all I'm going to think about.

"Everything just felt right. The pull of the club is huge, the size of the club, the history of the club. Obviously the new, ambitious plans, the new owners, knowing some of the players, the squad.

"I just thought it was a perfect fit for me. Yes, I've had lots of other options, but I wanted to take my time and really be utilising my time away from the game. I feel refreshed, energised and ready to start work."

Newcastle are 19th in the Premier League after 11 games and are the only team in the division still yet to win a match, managing just five points so far.

The club are five points from safety and, despite the grand ambitions of long-term success, Howe insists that avoiding the drop this season is both his, and the owners', primary focus.

"[The owners and I have] had some really good conversations," Howe continued. 

"I've been very, very impressed by their vision of the club but, to be honest, I haven't delved into that too much because it's all about the short term.

"Obviously the position of the team, we need to try and address that very quickly, move up the league and the aim is to stay in the league, to avoid relegation.

"That's what I'll be working towards and that's really my main focus at the moment, everything else can wait for another day."

Despite the club's precarious position in the table, Howe remained positive about Newcastle's chances of survival under his guidance - but stopped short of making any guarantees.

"I'm absolutely confident that we can [avoid relegation], but I make no promises on that," Howe added. "All I can do is lead the club to the best of my abilities.

"I'll give everything to the job, I'll commit 100 per cent every single day to try and bring success to Newcastle for everybody connected with the club.

"I believe we have the ability within the squad, with the players, to achieve that aim, but it's going to take a lot of hard work.

"It's going to take a lot of sacrifice, suffering, in terms of the players giving everything that they have to try and commit to the objective that we need."

Liverpool have confirmed sporting director Michael Edwards will leave his role after the expiration of his contract.

A club statement said Edwards had given notice to Liverpool's ownership that he wished to take up a new challenge after his deal ends, which is at the end of the 2021-22 season.

Julian Ward, who is the assistant sporting director, will be promoted following Edwards' departure.

Edwards, 42, joined Liverpool in 2011 as head of analytics, and was then promoted to director of technical performance.

Another promotion, to technical director, followed, before he took up the role of sporting director in November 2016.

While in the role, Edwards has overseen a hugely successful spell for the Reds, with Jurgen Klopp's side winning the 2018-19 Champions League and 2019-20 Premier League, as well as the UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup.

"To be part of this club during this period has been a privilege due to the people I have been fortunate enough to work with and the success we have enjoyed," Edwards said.

"I had always planned to cap my time at the club to a max of 10 years. I've loved working here, but I am a big believer in change. I think it's good for the individual and, in a work setting, good for the employer, too."

In his presentation as Newcastle United's head coach on Tuesday, Eddie Howe was asked if he knew anything of Edwards possibly joining the Magpies.

Newcastle are looking for a sporting or football director following their Saudi-backed takeover. Michael Emenalo, the former sporting director of Chelsea and Monaco, has also been linked.

"As far as I know, absolutely not, no. I know nothing about Michael Edwards' future," Howe said.

"He's someone that I hugely respect in the game and in what he does and what he's done for Liverpool. My main focus since coming to Newcastle has been on the players that are in the team, not focused on January, not focused on anything outside of what influences the team."

Aaron Ramsey has become an issue for Juventus, being on a bumper contract but having fallen out of favour.

Ramsey signed with Juve in 2019 on a four-year deal from Arsenal.

The 30-year-old has only made 70 appearances across almost two-and-a-half seasons, including only five this term.

 

TOP STORY – PREMIER LEAGUE PAIR KEEN ON RAMSEY

Juventus are shopping around Aaron Ramsey with Premier League pair Everton and Newcastle United in the mix, claims Goal.

The Bianconeri are keen to find a buyer for the Wales international midfielder in January although his salary may be a stumbling block.

No formal offers have been tabled yet for the ex-Arsenal star.

ROUND-UP  

- The transfer saga involving Paul Pogba continues to twist and turn with The Star claiming Manchester United are willing to sell him in January, with his contract expiring at the end of the season. Paris Saint-Germain, Real Madrid and Juventus have been linked with the French midfielder.

- AS claims Manchester United are hoping to win the race for Sevilla's Jules Kounde , with Chelsea 's admiration long known.

- West Ham will turn down any approaches for England international Declan Rice , reports The Sun. The midfielder has been linked with Manchester United and Chelsea .

- Newcastle are angling to land Ousmane Dembele as a free agent if he refuses to pen a new deal with Barcelona, reports Express.

- Internazionale could also seal a free transfer for Andre Onana from Ajax according to Fabrizio Romano, who claims a verbal agreement was reached months ago. Barcelona have also shown an interest in Onana.

- Arsenal forward Eddie Nketiah has interest from German club Monchengladbach for a January move according to The Sun.

- Goal claims that Liverpool legend and current Rangers manager Steven Gerrard is Aston Villa 's first choice to take their vacant managerial role following Dean Smith's dismissal.

Newcastle United have ended their search for a new head coach by appointing Eddie Howe on a two-and-a-half-year deal.

Graeme Jones had been in temporary charge of the Magpies since Steve Bruce departed by mutual consent following a takeover that saw Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund take an 80 per cent share in the club, becoming the richest owner in world football.

Brendan Rodgers, Paulo Fonseca, Lucien Favre and Roberto Martinez were linked with role before Villarreal coach Unai Emery snubbed the Premier League strugglers.

Instead, former Bournemouth manager Howe was on Monday confirmed as Bruce's successor after he watched on from the stands as Newcastle drew 1-1 at Brighton and Hove Albion on Saturday.

Howe has been out of work since leaving Bournemouth in August 2020 following their relegation to the Championship.

The 43-year-old worked wonders during two spells in charge of the Cherries, masterminding an astonishing rise from League Two to the top flight, and reportedly turned Celtic down before Ange Postecoglou took the hotseat with the Glasgow giants.

Across his time with Bournemouth and a stint in between at Burnley, Howe has overseen 545 career games as a coach, winning 228 of them.

In the Premier League, he won 56 of 190 matches, with his best season seeing Bournemouth earn 46 points and finish ninth in 2016-17.

The excitement around Newcastle United's lucrative takeover has died down, with the world's richest football club now facing a relegation scrap.

Newcastle have endured the worst start to a league season in their history after Saturday's 1-1 draw at Brighton and Hove Albion extended their winless run to 11 matches.

Second from bottom and five points from safety, talk of January moves for Philippe Coutinho, Ousmane Dembele or Marc-Andre ter Stegen – Barcelona's expensively assembled squad, reports say, is ripe for picking – must wait.

Expectations have also been tempered in the coaching arena. Antonio Conte, Erik ten Hag and Unai Emery were all mooted targets; Emery even held talks with Newcastle's owners. Instead, Eddie Howe is the man in charge.

Howe, whose arrival at St James' Park on a contract until the end of 2023-24 was confirmed on Monday, is a highly respected coach but was last employed by Bournemouth in 2020, at the wheel as they were relegated from the Premier League.

Crucially, though, Howe also knows a thing or two about beating the drop. He kept Bournemouth in the top flight for four seasons before that fateful final campaign and had rescued the club from demotion out of the Football League more than 10 years earlier.

The 43-year-old will expect financial help in the transfer window, but Newcastle first have several areas of concern to address if they are to reach January still in touch.

Fix the defence

The biggest worry around both Newcastle and Howe relates to their defensive records.

Only Norwich City (26) have conceded more goals than Newcastle (24) this season, while the Magpies' opponents have had a league-high 21.6 expected goals. That back line clearly needs attention.

But Howe's Bournemouth conceded at least 61 goals in each of their five seasons in the top flight, making him far from an obvious candidate to address Newcastle's biggest need.

There is a lack of quality options within that defence, but Graeme Jones, the interim coach who has taken a role on Howe's staff, has attempted to stem the tide during his short reign as the main man.

At odds with the more aggressive pressing approach Howe is likely to adopt, Jones' side sat deep. Across games against Crystal Palace, Chelsea and Brighton, Newcastle had the highest PPDA (an incredibly passive 22.6 opposition passes per defensive action) and the second-deepest average starting position (just 37.5 metres from their own goal) in the league. The Magpies still conceded five times and earned only two points.

Regardless of what changes Howe makes at the back – and there have to be changes – those in front also require greater co-ordination.

In Sean Longstaff (52.9), Joe Willock (49.9) and Miguel Almiron (49.7), Newcastle have players who rank first, fifth and sixth among central midfielders for pressures per 90 minutes this season. Their haphazard pressing, lacking any clear cohesion, has succeeded only in leaving gaps behind them, however.

Neither Longstaff nor Willock featured at Brighton, while Almiron played on the right flank and was taken off after 74 minutes.

Keep the ball

The pressure on Newcastle's defence would be relieved by an ability to keep the ball for any extended period. Their average possession of 37.3 per cent is comfortably the lowest in the division this season.

But that is nothing new; Newcastle have ranked in the bottom three in this regard in each season since they were promoted in 2017.

"We hopefully have nudged it along a little bit this week," Jones said before the Brighton game, where Newcastle had just 34.1 per cent of the ball. "You can't go from how we played against Chelsea and Crystal Palace to being Barcelona overnight. It's impossible, so it needs to be small steps."

Howe, Newcastle will hope, should be able to help with those steps. Since Bournemouth were first promoted, only Leeds United last season (57.8 per cent) have averaged more possession in their first year in the Premier League than the Cherries in 2015-16 (51.1 per cent).

Concerningly, though, having held steady into a second season, Bournemouth's possession figures then dropped with each campaign until they were relegated with 43.4 per cent of the ball.

Howe will have to enact serious change and this time maintain those standards over a longer period.

Feed the forwards

Having more possession should fit hand in hand with getting Newcastle's dangerous attacking players on the ball more often. Callum Wilson and Allan Saint-Maximin have too often been isolated.

The certainty of a full-time appointment should at least allow Newcastle to settle on a system that suits both players after drastically shifting their approach following each miserable run of Steve Bruce's tenure. Tactical flexibility, as Howe should show, is one thing, having no proven plan to fall back on is another.

Even with Newcastle struggling, Wilson has managed to score 16 goals since the start of last season. Among the 14 players to net 15 or more in that time, only Mohamed Salah (127), Harry Kane (163) and Dominic Calvert-Lewin (164) have averaged fewer minutes per goal than the Magpies' number nine (167).

"A fit Callum Wilson is as good as anybody in the Premier League," Jones says.

Of course, Howe has experience with Wilson and with Ryan Fraser, both of whom he brought to Bournemouth.

Under Howe in 2018-19, Wilson and Fraser combined for 12 Premier League goals – at that time, the second-most of any duo in the competition's history in a single season, behind Alan Shearer and Chris Sutton (13 in 1995-96).

If Howe can help the pair reprise that form and build some sort of platform behind them, Newcastle should yet have enough to survive.

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