Fri 11 Aug 2023, 13:48 by NUFC News

The key comments from Eddie Howe's pre-Aston Villa (H) press conference

The key comments from Eddie Howe's pre-Aston Villa (H) press conference
Serena Taylor | Newcastle United
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As the anticipation for the first game of the 2023/24 Premier League season against Aston Villa continues to build, Eddie Howe addressed the assembled media at the club's Benton training ground this morning.

Here are all of the key comments from his press conference, including his thoughts on Newcastle's transfer business this summer, his reaction to the bonus issue between the players and club, injury updates on Fabian Schär and Joe Willock, and his frustration with the new technical area and time-wasting protocols introduced ahead of the new campaign:

On the club's transfer business so far this summer

Howe thinks it's really important to do early business, especially when bringing in players from abroad, as they typically need the maximum possible time to settle in. He's happy that the club has done the majority of its business early this summer, and pays a compliment to Sandro Tonali for how he's adapted to life at St. James' Park.

He would still "love" to sign one more player, though refuses to be drawn on what kind of player he's in the market for. He believes one more signing would give him the "optimal squad depth", injuries permitting, but admits that the club will have to be "creative" with any deal. This likely means a loan-to-buy move, which are "very difficult transfers to do".

Howe was clear that nothing is close at the moment, though, and said he would completely rule out selling another senior squad member to fund any incoming transfers.

On the signing of Tino Livramento, in particular

Howe said there's a lot to like about Livramento, noting that he's very athletic, incredibly quick and dynamic, with really good endurance levels and technical quality. He's in good physical condition and has participated in all of pre-season, not missing a day of training, but his load will still need to be managed carefully following his ACL injury.

He hopes Livramento will be able to feature in different roles, though he views him as a right-back predominantly. He specifically mentions that he can play left-back and right midfield, but it doesn't sound like either is the long-term plan for the young defender.

On the bonus "row" between the players and the club

Howe is adamant that this is a typical scenario up and down the country and seemed very keen to play down its importance. He seemingly wants it dealt with quickly, though, to avoid it having any negative impact on his team's performance.

Our assessment here was that he feels it has been blown out of proportion, which isn't unusual for The Daily Mail.

On the new technical area and time-wasting protocols

Howe is clearly unhappy with the technical area changes that will only allow one member of the coaching staff to be "standing pitchside" during games and called the decision to bring them in ahead of this season "strange".

He alluded to the fact it may have been introduced due to Newcastle's success last season and the interest his assistant Jason Tindall generated with his antics. He also said the pair will have to work around the new rules and that fans can expect to see a lot of "rotation" between them on the touchline.

Howe also isn't a fan of the new time-wasting protocols due to the increased load they'll put on players who are already under so much physical stress. He said he does want games to flow and needless stoppages to be eradicated, though, as all teams employ game management.

On Schär, Willock, Krafth, and Manquillo's injuries

Fabian Schär has been back in full training since Tuesday and will be in the squad for the weekend, but Joe Willock is expected to be out until at least mid-September due to feeling discomfort in the hamstring that has kept him out of action since the end of last season.

Emil Krafth is still four-to-six weeks away from joining in full training with his teammates, while Javier Manquillo is still "injured" and available for selection.

His comments on Manquillo were especially interesting, as he was shown in training photos and featured in the training video released by the club this week. Our feeling is that a fairly imminent move back to Spain must be on the cards for the full-back.

On Elliot Anderson's pre-season performances

Howe would not disagree with Lee Ryder's assertion that Anderson has been the "player of the summer", which points to the Whitley Bay-born midfielder being involved from the start against Villa. He noted that he's finally fully fit after a lot of niggling injuries last season which harmed his progress and that he now views him as a fully-fledged member of the squad.

On the team selection for the Aston Villa match

Howe refuted Craig Hope's point that his only genuinely difficult selection decision was between Harvey Barnes and Anthony Gordon for the left-wing slot, asserting that he actually has "five or six" tricky choices to make.

While he said that he will never forget the historical performances of players or ignore players that "have done well" for him, he always picks a team to win a game in the here and now. He commented that this might lead to some "surprising" selections at times this season.

Although he will not make "radical" changes following such an excellent 2022/23 campaign, he does want to see the team evolve and the new players work their way into contention. He also expects any player who isn't selected to respect his decision, his teammates, and the club, and to react positively rather than negatively long-term.

On Aston Villa as a club and Unai Emery as a manager

Howe thinks Villa are on a similar trajectory to Newcastle and admits they were superb in their 3-0 win over his side last season. He credits Emery with doing a "fantastic job" since being hired, along with his players, and notes that both teams know each other well having faced off in the Premier League US Summer Series last month in a 3-3 draw.

Howe believes there's a "healthy respect" between the two clubs, but mentions that it's not just Villa who are looking to leapfrog Newcastle this season. There are several other clubs that are similarly equipped to be able to do so.

On managing expectations this season

Interestingly, Howe didn't shy away from intimating that equalling last season's league finish and cup run was the target this season.

He said he wants the same as the supporters but primarily wants to ensure that his players are giving maximum effort at all times to achieve the very best results possible. While he stopped short of stating explicit targets, it's abundantly clear that he's aiming very high this season.

On the "influence" of the Saudi Pro League

While he admitted that the league has already impacted the club due to Allan Saint-Maximin's departure, Howe doesn't expect any more bids for his players from Saudi Arabia.

He also wouldn't predict if the Pro League would be here to stay long-term, stating that it was too early to make that sort of call.

On Jamie Carragher and Gary Neville tipping his side to finish outside of the top six

Howe claims he isn't bothered about where any pundit predicts Newcastle will finish, but he doesn't mind at all if his players and staff use negative predictions as fuel to motivate themselves.

He believes pundits will always write him and his side off, and wants everybody at the club to "fight tooth and nail" to prove them wrong.

Those were all the main takeaways from the briefing, but if you're still hungry for more then here's the full 35 minutes, courtesy of NUFC's YouTube channel:

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