Newcastle United's hidden £35m problem as former Liverpool man tipped for FA Cup debut v Blackburn

Gabriel of Arsenal heads a shot which is later deflected by Sven Botman of Newcastle United (not pictured), resulting in an own-goal and Arsenal's first goal during the Premier League match between Arsenal FC and Newcastle United at Emirates Stadium on February 24, 2024 in London, England.Gabriel of Arsenal heads a shot which is later deflected by Sven Botman of Newcastle United (not pictured), resulting in an own-goal and Arsenal's first goal during the Premier League match between Arsenal FC and Newcastle United at Emirates Stadium on February 24, 2024 in London, England.
Gabriel of Arsenal heads a shot which is later deflected by Sven Botman of Newcastle United (not pictured), resulting in an own-goal and Arsenal's first goal during the Premier League match between Arsenal FC and Newcastle United at Emirates Stadium on February 24, 2024 in London, England.
Newcastle United's defensive struggles continued as they were beaten 4-1 by high-flying Arsenal at the Emirates.

Newcastle United were hammered at Arsenal. This was a result and performance that could have graced any ownership or managerial era.

Two in each half, a consolation from Joe Willock. This was nothing to write home about, with very little to shout about, but we will try to pick the bones out of it.

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Here's the five key talking points from the 4-1 hammering in North London.

Burn absence brings Botman form into focus

A lot of the focus in recent weeks has been on one of Newcastle's defensive weak points, Dan Burn.

Howe, rightly, took him out of the firing line at the Emirates. However, it didn't do a whole lot for the end result - or the goals conceded column.

What it did do, though, is maybe highlight the form of a player who, since returning from a serious knee injury, has just not looked anywhere close to his best.

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Sven Botman was all at sixes and sevens both with the ball and without it - his sleeping act for Arsenal's second was particularly poor. He gift-wrapped the second and third.

Is he still not right? Is the injury still a background issue? That, we do not know. But what we do is, Botman is doing little, at present, to justify his place in the team over Jamaal Lascelles, or maybe even Burn.

'Who put the ball in the Geordies' net, half the f---ing team did'

The Arsenal fans had some fun singing the above with the game won - and most of their goals gift-wrapped.

And it's true - and not just for Arsenal. Bar the bottom three and Bournemouth and Nottingham Forest, no team in the Premier League has conceded more goals this season.

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Newcastle have become far too easy to score against. They concede at home, away, under pressure, under none. When they're on top in games, when they're not, on the break, or even sitting deep. All kinds of goals, no matter the opposition.

Howe needs to find the answers to this conundrum, because this awful defensive record is ruining the Magpies' season. And it's at risk of ruining his reputation, if he's not careful, too.

Passive midfield a persistent problem

I think we all know Newcastle have been suffering most in midfield when it comes to injuries. And week-in, week-out, that's not given the head coach any option to change or alter a department in need of tweaks.

The lack of athleticism and legs has long been talked about, it is no secret, but the static, flat nature of the three was stark at the Emirates.

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In the midfield, Arsenal played the game at a total different pace to United, particularly in the first 45 - it looked at times like they were playing a different sport.

Karius return assessed

It's been far from a triumphant return to English football for Loris Karius at Newcastle. First there was the cup final loss, then this one - a 4-1 battering at Arsenal.

In general, most of his all-round play can't be criticised. His kicking was solid, he made his saves, when needed, mostly, and did a decent fill in job for Martin Dubravka.

However, he let himself down with the fourth goal, flapping at a weak header to let it drift into the net to take the game away from United. He wasn't the only one, though, to lay a goal on a plate for the Gunners.

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For note, it was Karius' first game in the Premier League since May 2018. I hope Howe sticks with him, rather than simply revert back to Dubravka, who missed out due to illness.

Having made his Carabao Cup and Premier League debut for Newcastle, he should add the FA Cup to his list.

A positive? Returns bring options...

Joe Willock and Alexander Isak added legs and quality to the Newcastle United side and bench. That's a positive, isn't it?

Well, it doesn't feel like one now, but I'm sure it'll make a difference against Blackburn. It should, anyway. Willock netted Newcastle's first goal at the Emirates since 2014.

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