How Eddie Howe's genius made Newcastle United a Champions League team

Newcastle United have qualified for the Champions League for the first time in 20 years, but after a mid-season wobble that saw them slip out of the top 4, Eddie Howe made a small but vital adjustment to their tactics that put them back on track.

Securing their top-four status with a 0-0 draw against Leicester City, Newcastle achieved what many before them have valiantly tried, but unsuccessfully failed at, in cracking into Europe's elite competition.

Most seasons see an unexpected team challenging for the top four, whether it be Leicester a few years ago, Southampton a decade ago or even Newcastle themselves under Alan Pardew, there are regular sides competing at the head of the table in the first half of the season.

Ultimately, they all failed to make their strong form last, with results dropping away as the so-called bigger teams get into their rhythm and overtake. Around February time, at the point of the Carabao Cup final loss against Manchester United, Newcastle's form looked shaky and they lost ground in the running for the Champions League. 


While defending remained the bedrock of why Newcastle reached the position they were, struggles to score goals saw them slip somewhat. 

Eddie Howe managed to turn things around with his genius, though, adapting his tactics to ensure his side scored more frequently. High pressing, a paramount feature of the identity of the team, was soon changed, with the philosophy of why they pressed developed by the manager. 

Previously, Newcastle would consistently win the ball in the opposition's defensive third, but they failed to convert these high turnovers into shots in the Premier League. Teams started playing from a deeper position, meaning more players were around the ball to defend if they lost the ball. 

Chances became limited, which is why Howe started inviting teams to start playing longer by pressing smarter. Players stopped any build-up from happening, forcing opposition to go longer into the midfield third. Once the ball reached there, Newcastle pounced. 

With the other team higher up the pitch and slightly more exposed, Newcastle would win the ball which led to more direct attacks - anything that starts within your half of the pitch, and within 15 seconds allows a chance on goal. 

As FourFourTwo's Adam Clery discusses in greater detail in the video above, these tactics, and change in personnel, are exactly why Newcastle United have reached the Champions League. 

Thank you for reading 5 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access

Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

Ryan Dabbs
Staff writer

Ryan is a staff writer for FourFourTwo, joining the team full-time in October 2022. He first joined Future in December 2020, working across FourFourTwo, Golf Monthly, Rugby World and Advnture's websites, before eventually earning himself a position with FourFourTwo permanently. After graduating from Cardiff University with a degree in Journalism and Communications, Ryan earned a NCTJ qualification to further develop as a writer while a Trainee News Writer at Future. 

With contributions from