Eddie Howe has recognized that Sven Botman, the £35m Netherlands defender, will not be available for Newcastle’s Carabao Cup match against Manchester United on Wednesday night. It is possible that Botman may be absent for a significant period of time.
Botman has not played since sustaining a knee injury in September’s 8-0 win at Sheffield United and Newcastle’s manager did not reject suggestions that the centre half may be sidelined long term. “Yeah, perhaps,” said Howe. “There’s an issue there and we’re working through various options to try to diagnose the exact problem. We’re still waiting for clarity on what is happening with Sven.”
Newcastle’s squad is facing some challenges with key players like Alexander Isak, Harvey Barnes, and Jacob Murphy all injured. To add to this, their new signing, Italy midfielder Sandro Tonali, has also been banned for 10 months for violating betting rules. This has left the team with limited options.
There are openings appearing on the field, particularly in the offensive area where Isak and Callum Wilson are the only designated center-forwards for Howe’s team. However, Wilson’s past injuries require his playing time to be carefully monitored.
It is highly likely that Wilson will not play at Old Trafford. Howe might choose to use the winger Anthony Gordon in an attacking position or move Joelinton from midfield to his previous position. This is in response to Newcastle’s desire to get back at Manchester United for their loss in last season’s League Cup final.
“We lacked the means to acquire a third striker during the summer,” stated Howe, whose ability to make transfers is limited by the requirement to adhere to financial fair play rules.
The manager of Newcastle stated that he could not talk about Tonali because the team is still unsure about the details of his suspension from Fifa. “Sandro is present, but he has not practiced with the team because we are still waiting for confirmation [regarding Tonali’s eligibility to train with the squad].”
As Howe’s squad prepares for a challenging match against Arsenal at home in the Premier League on Saturday, followed by a demanding Champions League match against Dortmund next Tuesday, it is likely that the starting lineup will undergo significant changes. Additionally, a different formation may be utilized at Old Trafford, providing the opportunity to showcase a new strategy.
“We must find the right balance between adapting and maintaining our current methods, to ensure that our players have the optimal environment to showcase their skills,” stated Howe. “We have a consistent training and playing style, but there have been discussions about making adjustments. Let’s see what decisions we make.”
Erik ten Hag expressed disapproval towards Newcastle’s tendency to waste time, but Howe countered by stating that Manchester United’s manager was mistaken. Howe clarified that their intention was not to waste time, but rather to play the game according to their preferred style – high-energy and high-tempo. They aim for quick games and keeping the ball in play.
“We want to try and entertain so there’s no part of us that goes into the game in a negative frame of mind. A lot was made of our game management last year and I felt it was falsely reported. The stats may say something slightly different but if you watched us play, you would have seen a different style to the one that was painted in certain areas of the media.”