Eddie Howe has nine days to avoid a full-blown crisis – here’s how Newcastle could line up to avert a meltdown

EDDIE HOWE has nine days to avoid a full-blown crisis at Newcastle.

Ridiculous given what he has achieved in 22 months on Tyneside, perhaps, but the Magpies boss is well aware his bosses want the world’s “number one” club. 

ReutersEddie Howe has found himself under pressure of late[/caption]

Newcastle were always due to hit a wall following their meteoric rise under Saudi Arabian ownership into the Champions League – however many millions they pumped into it (£375million and counting two years in).

The only question in Toon, then, was how the overlords in Riyadh would react to the fist stall. To chop or not to chop?

Howe, 45, has built up plenty of goodwill, taking them from relegation candidates to the San Siro at breakneck speed, and can of course turn it around following three defeats from their first four Prem games.

Brentford at home before trips to AC Milan and Sheffield United should provide hope not fear.

Newcastle’s long-awaited return to the Champions League following 20 years in the wilderness is as glamorous as it gets. European royalty – in name if not current team – awaits and the travelling Geordie hordes will have the time of their lives.

Yet if they head to Italy having been stung by the Bees, and Milan turns into a nightmare, the noise will become deafening before next Sunday’s trip to Bramall Lane and Howe will quickly find out exactly why Newcastle and meltdown have long gone hand in hand.

On social media there are already fans questioning whether the ex-Bournemouth manager is the right man.

And you can bet those conversations will start in the giant skyscraper where chairman Yasir Al-Rumayyan, Newcastle chairman and governor of the Saudi Public Investment Fund – which owns 80 per cent of the Mags – oversees his empire if this week goes to pot. 

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Their opening run of fixtures was the hardest in the Premier League but the 3-1 defeat at Brighton before the international break was sobering. 

Howe splashed over £120m this summer yet that transfer policy is now under the microscope given Sandro Tonali is the only new arrival to start a game.

Full-backs Tino Livramento and Lewis Hall may be excellent additions for the long-term but Newcastle’s starting XI has barely been strengthened. Most observers thought a centre-back and holding midfielder were needed yet neither arrived.

So what can Howe do to turn it around with what he’s got?

Left-back is becoming a real concern with neither Dan Burn or Matt Targett fully convincing, so Hall’s introduction could be accelerated.

The midfield has been their major weakness, despite Tonali, Joelinton and Bruno Guimaraes bossing it in the 5-1 opening day hammering of Aston Villa.

GettyLewis Hall was signed from Chelsea last month[/caption]

GettySandro Tonali is the only new signing to have started a game for Newcastle this term[/caption]

It’s looked disjointed since and they are feeling the absence of the crocked Joe Willock. Sean Longstaff is not glamorous but does the donkey work – and the stats show Newcastle suffer when the Geordie is not playing. Howe has to find a better balance in the engine room and that may mean dropping one of his midfield stars.

Harvey Barnes was the only attacking player bought but the £38million winger has been stuck on the bench behind Anthony Gordon, despite Miguel Almiron’s poor start on the right.

Barnes may prefer playing on the left but he surely needs to be given a chance at the expense of the Paraguayan.

Alternatively, Joelinton has previously excelled on the left flank under Howe and moving the Brazilian out wide brings Longstaff into midfield alongside Tonali and Bruno.

Callum Wilson is yet to start but has two goals as a sub and he will understandably be furious if not given a shot against Brentford or AC Milan ahead of Alexander Isak.

Howe has been reluctant to make changes so far, leading to accusations that he lacks a Plan B. His substitutions have also been panned. Simply, he has to change things up. 

Juggling top-four ambitions with the Champions League was always going to make this a tricky campaign to navigate. 

And Howe knows he must find the answers sharpish if he wants to see it through.

Hoe Eddie Howe could tweak his side

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