Captaincy, crisis, faults & flaws - SEVEN Newcastle United questions for Eddie Howe to address

Newcastle United take on Liverpool on Thursday, just four days after their 4-0 Leicester City hammering.

<p>Allan Saint-Maximin of Newcastle United reacts during the Premier League match between Leicester City and Newcastle United at The King Power Stadium on December 12, 2021 in Leicester, England.</p>

Allan Saint-Maximin of Newcastle United reacts during the Premier League match between Leicester City and Newcastle United at The King Power Stadium on December 12, 2021 in Leicester, England.

The Nightmare Before Christmas.

Festive, just, and with plenty of scare.

You might be tempted to say that about Newcastle United’s Christmas Premier League schedule, too.

Having kicked off with a win, December is soon turning in to something resembling Halloween, as a suicidal horror show on Filbert Way is followed by what feels like a fright night in-waiting on Merseyside.

Get Anfield out the way and, phew. Well, not quite. Seven goals later, Leeds United now know first-hand just how good Manchester City can be - and they’re next up on Tyneside on Sunday.

So, that wave of positivity that swept through the city following the Burnley ‘must-win’ was swiftly replaced by doom and gloom. A default position for so long at United.

What next for Eddie Howe & Co, what issues to address?

Here’s seven questions that need answered at United as the longest of long Decembers drags on.

1. Changes - who and how many?

Callum Wilson of Newcastle United looks on as he warms up prior to the Premier League match between Leicester City and Newcastle United at The King Power Stadium on December 12, 2021 in Leicester, England.

Three games in eight days, two of which have been away from home, all against top sides in the Premier League. It is no exaggeration to call this the week from hell for United in the Premier League.

And Howe, who faces the press this morning, must decide who he takes out the firing line.

It will be interesting to see if the likes of Callum Wilson are given a break, particularly given his injury record at United.

2. Jamaal Lascelles - selection and captaincy on the line?

Newcastle captain Jamaal Lascelles looks on before the Premier League match between Newcastle United and Burnley at St. James Park on December 04, 2021 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England.

He’s been skipper at United for a long time, and he’s served the club well in that time.

But has the time come for Lascelles to be taken out the team? I’d be in favour of Federico Fernandez getting the nod this week alongside Fabian Schar.

I’ve seen and heard plenty mention stripping Lascelles of the captaincy, particularly on social media. But, for me, that’s a step too far. The potentially divisive nature of such a move means I’d suspect Howe won’t do it.

3. Is Allan Saint-Maximin a luxury too many?

Allan Saint-Maximin of Newcastle United arrives to the stadium ahead of the Premier League match between Newcastle United and Burnley at St. James Park on December 04, 2021 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England.

Having started the season on fire with goals and assists, that looks a long way off at the moment.

Saint-Maximin is out of form, plain and simple.

And the question needs to be asked, can a club in Newcastle United’s predicament carry a passenger in games?

I like ASM, but it’s just not clicked for him, of late. Much of what he’s trying just isn’t quite working.

4. Does Joe Willock need taking out of the firing line?

Joe Willock of Newcastle United controls the ball during the Premier League match between Newcastle United and Norwich City at St. James Park on November 30, 2021 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England.

Was he ever as good as his goal-laden run last season where everything he touched turned to gold?

I won’t be writing the player off, but he does look like someone severely lacking in confidence.

The only reason he hasn’t been taken out the team probably points to the lack of other options in this department.

5. Stick with four or switch to a five?

Jarred Gillett, the match referee interacts with Federico Fernandez of Newcastle United during the Premier League match between Watford and Newcastle United at Vicarage Road on September 25, 2021 in Watford, England.

Are United more solid with a five, or better with a four? This is one thing that Howe must decide.

The two previous managers at the club always fell back on five when times got tough.

6. Can Javier Manquillo survive his latest defensive lapse?

Chelsea winger Callum Huson-Odoi crosses despite the challenge of Javier Manquillo of Newcastle during the Premier League match between Newcastle United and Chelsea at St. James Park on October 30, 2021 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England.

The Spaniard was shambolic at Leicester - especially as he was culpable for the second and third goals. In fact, he wasn’t all that good in the Burnley win either.

He just doesn’t seem capable of getting the balance right between attack and defence, playing people onside, or finding himself too far from the players inside of him.

Could Emil Krafth get a recall? On recent evidence, he couldn’t do much worse, despite never proving himself in black and white either.

7. Is it time for Ritchie and Fraser?

Ryan Fraser of Newcastle United crosses the ball during the Premier League match between Arsenal and Newcastle United at Emirates Stadium on November 27, 2021 in London, England.

Both players have extensive Premier League experience and the ability to create.

Will Howe fall back on his own tried and tested in times of hardship? Only time will tell on that one.