Eddie Howe has a few selection headaches ahead of Saturday’s season-opening match against Nottingham Forest. Two of those involve new signings Nick Pope and Sven Botman. One of the glaring questions to be answered is have they done enough to unseat Martin Dubravka and Dan Burn.
The jury is still out on whether they have but Howe may provide a clue during his press conference tomorrow. While these are difficult decisions, one positive is Howe cannot go wrong with whoever he selects as Botman, Burn, Dubravka, and Pope all seem up to the task.
As Nick Pope recently did with The Athletic, Botman has provided an interview to Craig Hope in The Mail. Pope revealed that Eddie Howe gave him no assurances he would be the automatic number one, which Botman will have also been told.
The situation is very different between the two players. Pope is a Premier League veteran with over 140 appearances under his belt. Botman, at just 22, is still getting acclimated to life in England, and all that entails.
During his interview, Sven revealed his surprise at the intensity level during training under his new manager. Here is some of what he told Hope:
“I certainly need to adapt!. There is a big difference here. Yeah, I was a bit surprised.
“I knew the tempo in the Premier League was high, but training as well?
“There is no rest between drills. It is, “Go, go, go”. Everything is 200 per cent. But that’s a good thing. The manager is clear what he demands from us.
“If we want to reach that level, we have to demand a lot from ourselves.”
We should see a very different side take the pitch on Saturday as compared to the start of last season when fitness levels proved to be sub-standard. Howe has made it a priority since day one to be one of the fittest squads in the league.
Hopefully, that will help provide a quick start out of the gate. Newcastle have a couple of winnable matches to start the campaign – at home against Forest and away to Brighton – before a difficult stretch including Manchester City at home then away trips to Wolves and Liverpool.
The window will then slam shut after those five matches. How they go could play a major role in who comes through the door. The club are committed to adding two attackers by September, though have so far not been able to land priority targets.
Expectations for the season will be tentatively high, especially if a marquee forward is added. While Howe will likely not give away his aims for this season, Botman had no qualms with putting Newcastle’s name in the race for a place in Europe saying:
“It is no longer a club just trying to stay in the Premier League”
“It’s a club with a big plan. They want to reach the top. That’s why I’m here.
“Europe is definitely a goal this season. I believe we can achieve that. I just hope people don’t already have it in mind that we’ll finish top four. You need time, it is step by step.”