Eddie Howe explains surprise Newcastle United decision on Allan Saint-Maximin

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Allan Saint-Maximin was left out of Newcastle United’s starting XI for the 2-0 loss at Manchester City.

Eddie Howe has explained why he made three changes to his Newcastle United starting XI against Manchester City.

Nick Pope was immediately recalled after missing the Carabao Cup final due to suspension, but the inclusion of Jamaal Lascelles and Anthony Gordon came as a surprise.

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“Yeah, just to freshen up the team,” said the Magpies’ head coach. “Fabian [Schar] suffered a concussion last week. It was very mild, but he was ineligible to play. Then Nick [Pope] came back in.”

While Schar’s absence was enforced, Howe’s decision to leave Allan Saint-Maximin out of the starting line-up was a change Newcastle fans weren’t expecting.

Newcastle United winger Allan Saint-Maximin. (Photo by GLYN KIRK/AFP via Getty Images)Newcastle United winger Allan Saint-Maximin. (Photo by GLYN KIRK/AFP via Getty Images)
Newcastle United winger Allan Saint-Maximin. (Photo by GLYN KIRK/AFP via Getty Images) | AFP via Getty Images

The Frenchman had started the last four games (West Ham, Bournemouth, Liverpool & Manchester United), and memorably put in a man of the match against Man City during the 3-3 draw at St James’ Park in August.

Asked if it was a difficult decision to omit Saint-Maximin from the starting line-up, Howe replied: "I think all decisions are difficult in selection, with the quality of the squad we’ve got, they’re tough calls. But I don’t want to become fixated with playing one team.

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“I think we’re in a moment now where we have the strength in depth to change our starting line-up. Without predicting the future, I’d like the flexibility to rotate, keep players fresh, and also to use the bench.

“Today’s plan was to use the bench and get fresh players on the pitch so we could execute the high-intensity game we felt we needed to be competitive in the match."

United trailed 1-0 after Phil Foden’s 15th-minute opener. The introduction of Saint-Maximin, Alexander Isak and Joe Willock helped push for an equaliser before Bernardo Silva doubled City’s lead.

Newcastle sit fifth in the Premier League table but have won just one of their previous eight games.

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