Newcastle United’s ‘improved fitness’ key to Aston Villa win plus Dan Burn and Kieran Trippier impact

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The five talking points from Newcastle’s narrow victory over Aston Villa.

Newcastle United made it three straight Premier League victories with a hard-fought one-nil victory over Steven Gerrard’s Aston Villa.

Kieran Trippier’s 35th-minute free-kick was enough to ensure all three points stayed on Tyneside, a win that leaves Eddie Howe’s men four points clear of the relegation places.

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NewcastleWorld looks at the five key talking points from this afternoon’s game.

A long-term Kieran Trippier injury is a catastrophic blow

Newcastle full back Kieran Trippier sits down on the turf before leaving the field with an injury during the Premier League match between Newcastle United and Aston Villa at St. James Park on February 13, 2022 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. Newcastle full back Kieran Trippier sits down on the turf before leaving the field with an injury during the Premier League match between Newcastle United and Aston Villa at St. James Park on February 13, 2022 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England.
Newcastle full back Kieran Trippier sits down on the turf before leaving the field with an injury during the Premier League match between Newcastle United and Aston Villa at St. James Park on February 13, 2022 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. | Getty Images

There cannot be many players that have had as big of an impact as Trippier in his first five games in a black and white shirt.

Just like Tuesday night, the 31-year-old found the back of the net and was immaculate with his defensive work.

Hearts were in the mouths of the 49,000 Geordies inside St James’ Park as they saw him hit the deck two minutes into the second half.

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And when he ripped off his captain’s armband, we knew his afternoon was over.

Head coach Howe revealed after the game that Trippier was taken straight to hospital for an x-ray on his foot that had been “stamped on”.

Trippier returned to St James’ Park around 30 minutes after the final whistle on crutches with a protective boot on his left foot – leaving supporters fearing the worst.

And today brought the news everyone feared, with a broken metatarsal likely to keep the England international out for around six weeks.

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To lose your standout defender and leader for several weeks/months is a catastrophic blow, especially when you factor in that his likely replacement, Javier Manquillo, is set for a spell on the sidelines himself with ligament damage.

Big Dan Burn’s colossal debut

Awarded a deserved man of the match by Sky Sports, Blyth-born Dan Burn’s Newcastle debut couldn’t have gone much better.

The 6 foot 7 centre-back was thrown into the deep end after an unwell Jamaal Lascelles was unable to play due to illness, meaning he had the task of keeping the likes of Philippe Coutinho, Emi Buendia and Ollie Watkins quiet – something which is far from an easy feat.

But the number 33 looked like he had been part of his Newcastle setup for years, accompanying Fabian Schar with aplomb at the heart of the defence.

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Newcastle fans have every right to be raving about Burn’s performance on social media, with him having 75% passing accuracy, three clearances, one key interception and a chunk of Tyrone Mings’ shirt collected in the process.

Dan Burn of Newcastle United applauds the fans following victory in the Premier League match between Newcastle United and Aston Villa at St. James Park on February 13, 2022 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. Dan Burn of Newcastle United applauds the fans following victory in the Premier League match between Newcastle United and Aston Villa at St. James Park on February 13, 2022 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England.
Dan Burn of Newcastle United applauds the fans following victory in the Premier League match between Newcastle United and Aston Villa at St. James Park on February 13, 2022 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. | Getty Images

Joe Willock’s massive upturn in form could extend Bruno’s spell on the bench

Since his startling loan spell at the club last season, the goals have dried up for Joe Willock, and so have the performances to an extent.

But in the last three games – which Newcastle have all won – Willock has been an integral cog in the centre of the park.

Today was comfortably Willock’s best shift in a Toon shirt since his £25m permanent move – with the young midfielder making four tackles and one key interception, along with an immaculate 100% pass accuracy.

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If he keeps this up, you struggle to see an avenue for new boy Bruno Guimaraes to break into this starting line-up.

Improved fitness working wonders

To go from a side that had thrown away more points than any other from winning positions – 21 – to a team that once they go in front never look like losing is nothing short of incredible.

In midweek against Everton, they never looked in any danger, and it was the same again today against a more dangerous Aston Villa side on paper.

Despite the array of attacking talent Villa had on and off the bench – combined with losing both of their first-choice full-backs halfway through the match – Newcastle rarely found themselves ‘under the cosh’ as such.

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A lot of that has to be down to the much-improved fitness over the players, and big credit has to be given to Howe and his assistant Jason Tindall for that.

Newcastle manager Eddie Howe (r) and assistant Jason Tindall look on during the Premier League match between Newcastle United  and  Everton at St. James Park on February 08, 2022 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England.Newcastle manager Eddie Howe (r) and assistant Jason Tindall look on during the Premier League match between Newcastle United  and  Everton at St. James Park on February 08, 2022 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England.
Newcastle manager Eddie Howe (r) and assistant Jason Tindall look on during the Premier League match between Newcastle United and Everton at St. James Park on February 08, 2022 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. | Getty Images

Eddie Howe deserves an immense amount of credit

Three wins in a row and four points clear of the bottom three with a game in hand on 17th – who would’ve thought that would be the case just a few weeks ago?

This week could be the week we look back at in May as the one where Newcastle’s fortunes turned completely around.

It’s evident that Howe inherited a squad lacking fitness, self-belief and most importantly, points – and he’s rectified all of those in just a few months.

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If you go off the last five games, the Magpies would incredibly occupy a spot in the Champions League places with just Liverpool, Man City and Wolves above them.

They travel to West Ham next week with confidence in abundance, knowing another victory could see the attention turn from a relegation battle, to consolidating a comfortable spot in mid-table…

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