The Briefing: Nottingham Forest 2 Newcastle United 3: Bruno's new role, Howe's Entertainers, Burn backed
Bruno Guimaraes scored twice in a new advance role as Eddie Howe’s Newcastle United beat Nottingham Forest 3-2 in their latest rollercoaster Premier League game.
In a chaotic first-half Guimaraes’ side-foot volley from a Kieran Trippier cross gave Newcastle the lead after 10 minutes only for Anthony Elanga to outpace Dan Burn to equalise 16 minutes later.
Fabian Schar’s fine finish at the end of another set piece put Newcastle back in front on 43 minutes but six minutes into stoppage time, Callum Hudson-Odoi’s deflected shot drew Forest level.
Forest felt they could have had two penalties, particularly when Taiwo Awoniyi went down after a long ball threatened to catch out Martin Dubravka, before Newcastle took the lead again when Guimaraes intercepted the ball in midfield and scored from the edge of the box on 66 minutes.
Here The Athletic’s George Caulkin and Chris Waugh analyse the key talking points.
What was Bruno’s role in Howe’s new system?
“Maybe we need to adapt and find different ways with this personnel,” Howe said following the 4-4 draw with Luton Town, suggesting that change was afoot. Yet, when the teamsheet was revealed, not only was it a surprise to see Anthony Gordon fit following his ankle problem, but also that the only alteration to the XI was Callum Wilson returning in place of Jacob Murphy.
However, the starting XI named belied the further tweaks that had been made. The personnel may have been largely the same, but the system and individual roles within it were different.
Out of possession, Newcastle remained largely in Howe’s preferred 4-3-3 formation. But when they had the ball, they essentially switched into a 3-2-4-1 set-up, with Kieran Trippier often stepping inside as an inverted full-back to join Lewis Miley, who was deployed as the No 6.
Guimaraes, meanwhile, was nominally the left-sided No 8, but was essentially given a free role and found himself popping up in a No 10 position a lot. Miguel Almiron also repeatedly came inside to overload the midfield areas.
Seemingly this innovation was intended to protect Newcastle’s centre-backs, crowd Morgan Gibbs-White and allow Guimaraes to be more influential higher up the field. It was fairly successful in possession, with Guimaraes scoring from the same corner routine as when he found the back of the net against Brentford last season. He then stole possession just outside of Forest’s box and curled Newcastle’s third into the bottom corner.
But without the ball there were teething problems, typified by Forest’s first equaliser, when three passes sent the home side from front to back, splintering the Newcastle backline and leaving Gibbs-White completely free to feed Elanga.
Whether Howe persists with this experiment will be intriguing to see.
Are they more entertaining than the Entertainers?
Are Howe’s side the Entertainers reborn? Last season they were the S***-houses, the Swarmers and the Roundheads, known for the strength of their defending, their canny game-management as much as their heavy-pressing. All those certainties have dissipated. Chaos is now their watchword, sometimes glorious, sometimes ugly,
This was a good day. A third Premier League away win — a second in succession and fourth in a row in all competitions — was not to be sniffed at but, goodness, Newcastle are hardly strolling down Easy Street. Just as against Luton Town, they twice took the lead and were twice pegged back, before Guimaraes grasped the winner.
Newcastle’s league matches this season have resulted in 89 goals, more than for any other side. They have not kept a clean sheet away from home since Sheffield United in September and they have already conceded 39 goals, six more than they for the whole of 2022-23. With all those injuries to contend with, doing it the hard way has become their identity.
For Kevin Keegan’s Newcastle, the Entertainers tag was a matter of principle, a statement of intent. Howe’s version is not a tribute act. Since Nick Pope’s injury in early December, Newcastle have conceded more goals and faced more shots than any other team in the division. They are living on the edge.
Was Howe right to stick with Dan Burn?
Eddie Howe was not for turning. Much of the head coach’s pre-match press conference on Friday was spent fielding questions about Dan Burn, who endured a difficult match against Luton Town the weekend before and conceded a penalty, but the left-back retained his place ahead of Tino Livramento.
The internet was not impressed.
Eddie Howe when it comes to starting dan burn pic.twitter.com/GxROg5Jl0j
— Alfie(Isak Enjoyer)⚫️⚪️ (@AIfieNUFC) February 10, 2024
— Memecastle United (@Memecastle_Utd) February 10, 2024
— Chris (@Chris_H52) February 10, 2024
It was a brave decision. Burn had struggled with the pace of Forest’s Antony Elanga during the 3-1 defeat to Forest on Boxing Day and there was more of the same here. The winger steamed past Burn in the 17th minute with Dubravka saving well. Ten minutes later, Elanga ran onto a fabulous ball from Morgan Gibbs-White, outpaced Burn and finished crisply.
Howe values loyalty; he had kept faith with Kieran Tripper when the England international’s form dipped in December but, on this occasion, the internet probably felt vindicated, even if (as he often does), Burn adapted, shrugged off any disappointment and grew.
The scoreline offered its own perspective.
What did Howe say?
We will bring you this after he has spoken at the post-match press conference.
What next for Newcastle?
Saturday, February 17: Bournemouth (H), Premier League, 3pm GMT, 10am ET
Here’s an itch very much in need of scratching. An injury-wrecked side’s 2-0 defeat to Eddie Howe, Jason Tindall, Callum Wilson and Matt Ritchie’s former employers in the reverse fixture in November, four days after what proved a crucial Champions League loss away to Borussia Dortmund, was among the lower points of the post-takeover era, with Kieran Trippier getting into a row with a fan following the final whistle. On a positive note, before that night Newcastle hadn’t lost in eight meetings with Bournemouth going back to 2017.
(Photo: Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)