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Injuries, shocks and flops - the highs and lows of Newcastle United's roller-coaster season so far

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Newcastle United's season so far has been a mixed bag to say the least.

From the lows of the thumping at Norwich to the highs of that 1-0 win over Champions League finalists Tottenham, it's already been something of a roller-coaster.

You can look at the total of four points from the opening four games several ways.

Either it should be better as United should have beaten the Canaries and then Watford last time out.

Or it's not a bad return, considering Steve Bruce's men have also played Arsenal as well as Spurs.

And while they are out of the Carabao Cup, a changed Newcastle side held a full-strength Leicester XI to a 1-1 draw before exiting on the lottery of penalties.

United have the most difficult of tasks at Liverpool this weekend, but here are Andrew Musgrove highs and lows of the season to date.

The low point

It's got to be the moment Teemu Pukki netted his hat-trick in the 75th minute of Newcastle's 3-1 defeat to Norwich City.

On a lovely sunny day down at Carrow Road, United were simply outplayed and outfought by a Norwich side who wanted it more.

Having seen encouraging sides against Arsenal, to go down 3-1 to Norwich hurt but to go down with little fight was worse.

There seemed to be a lack of direction, organisation, and no game plan - or not one that was clear to those watching.

United were embarrassed down in East Anglia, and just two games in were at rock bottom already.

The high point Newcastle United's Lascelles (right) celebrates with team mate Paul Dummett at the end of the Premier League match at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, London. (Image: PA)

What a difference a week makes - as United put in a five-star performance against Tottenham.

With a new stadium to show off, and a very talented squad at his disposal - Mauricio Pochettino was expected to lead his Spurs side to victory.

But Joelinton, who missed a glorious chance against Norwich before being subbed off, had other ideas and latched on to Christian Atsu's pass to fire past Hugo Lloris.

United then dug-in and frustrated Tottenham who could not bring the defence down.

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Bodies were on the line, but Spurs never looked like they could break United's resolve.

As the whistle went the scenes in the away were amazing, while the jubilation on the players' faces was something to behold too.

As is often the case in football, United had gone from rock bottom to top of the world in just a matter of days.

The surprise package Christian Atsu of Newcastle United has a shot (Image: Getty Images)

Christian Atsu pulled up while on duty with Ghana in the summer - impacting his pre-season with United.

The build-up to Spurs focused on the return to full-fitness for Allan Saint-Maximin, the summer signing from Nice, and few paid attention to Atsu's return to the bench.

For Atsu to be on the bench was an amazing show of character and effort from the winger, who had worked so hard but was not expected to be called upon so quickly.

After just 17 minutes, Saint-Maximin pulled his hamstring and was forced to come off to be replaced by Atsu.

The winger, without any match-fitness, turned the game in United's favour.

Not only did he set up the goal for Joelinton but drove Spurs crazy with his effort.

He was due a rest against Leicester City in the League Cup a few days later but when Matt Ritchie was forced off with injury - on came Atsu.

In a dire game, he was one of the better performers with a desire to create and go foward.

The Magpies then welcome Watford to St James' Park - it was another poor game but Atsu again stood out.

The Watford Observer's Ryan Gray wrote Atsu was 'arguably Newcastle's best player' on the day, and pointed out that former Magpies Daryl Janmaat had a tough day thanks to Atsu.

He put in a superb cross for Miguel Almiron but the forward couldn't finish, while Atsu himself was just inches away from scoring.

The winger has alway been inconsistent, and received some criticism for that, but if he can continue his season in this form United have some asset.

The one who remains consistent

Fabian Schar finished last season impressively, and has continued this campaign in the same manner.

For £3million, he's arguably one of United's best bargains.

Already with a goal to his name, a delightful side-foot finish against Watford, Schar has also impressed defensively.

The Swiss international brings a calming influence to the centre-back trio of Jamaal Lascelles, Paul Dummett and himself.

Another goal for Switzerland against Ireland last week saw him receive even more praise but for United fans who have watched him week-in and week-out, it's no surprise to see him in this run of form.

The one who has over-performed Javier Manquillo (Image: Newcastle United via Getty Image)

When the teamsheet was handed out against Norwich City, a large portion of the reaction was that Javier Manquillo was unlucky to be dropped.

He had a surprisingly good pre-season - especially considering the links that kept emerging of an exit from United - and looked solid against Arsenal.

Yet it was Emil Krafth that got the nod against Norwich City - his debut, and unfortunately had a nightmare.

Thankfully, Krafth has turned it around and performances improved against Spurs and Watford but at the same time, Manquillo has come off the bench against Leicester and Watford and continued his good form.

It's a welcome selection dilemma at right-back to have.

The one who has under-performed LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 25: Sean Longstaff of Newcastle United celebrates with Isaac Hayden of Newcastle United after their sides victory in the Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Newcastle United at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on August 25, 2019 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Sean Longstaff is a key member of this Newcastle United XI, and hopefully will be for years to come.

But he's not yet reached the heights we saw in his brief run in the team last season.

We've seen glimpses of why Manchester United were so keen to sign him this summer, and he deserves praise for an improved second-half performance against Watford after looking out-of-sorts in the first.

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Given the injury he suffered, and the months of football he lost due to recovery, he's still regaining full match fitness There's a question over whether he was welcomed back too soon but at the same time, the only way to get that match fitness back is by playing competively.

This isn't a dig at Longstaff but a back-handed compliment - he set the bar so high during his first run of games that we can't wait to see him reach that standard again.

The big dilemma Jonjo Shelvey speaks with Newcastle United head coach Steve Bruce (Image: Newcastle United via Getty Image)

It's Jonjo Shelvey.

Rafa Benitez had the same issue, how do you fit Shelvey into a side which can't afford to waste possession?

Shelvey is one of the best passers in the Premier League but Benitez quickly found out that he's a luxury rather than a major component of the side with that style of play.

If United's game plan is to absorb and counter, and to defend from the front - it's hard to fit Shelvey into side.

Isaac Hayden and Sean Longstaff have instantly looked better after the switch of formation and the dropping of Shelvey to the bench against Spurs.

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It's a tough decision for Bruce, who had clearly tried to put out a side where Shelvey was key but found out for some reason it nullifies the the effectiveness of Hayden and Longstaff.

How has Shelvey handled the change? He's a fan of Bruce, and is determined to win his place back.

"It is enjoyable and I want to see him do well," Shelvey said on Bruce.

“As a player he is putting his arm around you if you don’t make the team or make the squad.

“When that happens you want them to do well and stay here.

“Eventually he will stick by you because you’ve stuck by him.”

The big shock of the season General view of the Newcastle fans during the Premier League match at St James' Park (Image: PA)

The crowd against Watford.

Only 44,157 turned out to see the 1-1 draw at St James' Park.

There was no boycott, and had been no talk of any action whatsoever against owner Mike Ashley from the various protest groups.

The weather wasn't bad - it was a lovely sunny day in-fact, and United had come into the game with a win over Spurs, and a decent performance against Leicester, yet so many chose to stay away.

The prediction from the press box just after 3pm was around 46,000 but to see a drop to 44,000 was surprising - and should be reason to worry for Ashley that the crowd, without a push from fan groups, chose not to attend.

The biggest frustration Miguel Almiron (left) and Matt Ritchie

There are quite a few - Miguel Almiron still to score a goal, Matt Ritchie ruled out for three months, and Dwight Gayle yet to feature.

We'll start with Almiron - he should have scored against Watford, and really should have had at least a brace.

No one can fault his effort and running. Some have labelled him a 'headless chicken' but that running frightens defenders - do you want to tame that?

Yet that's not the debate here - it's his lack of goals.

He's never been a prolific goalscorer, and scored his goals for previous clubs in stages rather than across the season but to see him miscontrol the ball in the fourth minute against Watford was frustrating, and you do wonder when he'll get the ball in the net.

As for Matt Ritchie - he's the heartbeat of that side with his communication and direction.

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He's a second captain to the side, and sets the standard for those around him.

To lose him for three months is a huge blow. The challenge from Hamza Choudhury was clumsy and means United are now without not just one of their most attacking players but also a great leader.

Finally, Dwight Gayle - Bruce is very keen to work with him but an injury picked up in China has so far cost the head coach and striker that chance.

United at the moment are lacking options up top, and Gayle playing just off Joelinton is an exciting prospect  - one we hope we get to see sooner rather than later.




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