The signs Newcastle United ARE improving as Eddie Howe prepares for defining week with duo pushing for recall

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Although Newcastle United remain bottom of the Premier League, there are signs of improvement under Eddie Howe ahead of a season-defining week.

Newcastle United must dust themselves down quickly from the Arsenal defeat and get primed for a season-defining week.

Eddie Howe’s side lost 2-0 at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday afternoon but this week’s fixture list has no margin for error.

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Here’s five things to take from the Gunners game into the VERY important week ahead:

It’s good to have Eddie Howe back

Newcastle learned on Friday morning that Howe would be in the dugout for the trip to Arsenal after returning a negative Covid-19 test.

On the touchline, Howe was ever present alongside assistant coach Jason Tindall, while Graeme Jones watched the first and most of the second-half from just behind the press box.

Howe’s appearance was eagerly-awaited by supporters, who battled through Storm Arwen and travel delays, to welcome him and of course, support their team.

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A proper welcome will come at St James’ Park on Tuesday night but at the Emirates, Howe got a taste of what’s to come.

Chants of “Eddie Howe’s black and white army” were heard throughout the afternoon before he received a huge round of applause at full-time. Indeed, he returned the favour.

Despite the difficult situation the club finds itself in, it is one that finally looks United.

There are signs of improvements

During the three weeks Newcastle have spent under Howe & Co’s management, things have definitely improved.

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Last weekend against Brentford, the side looked a big threat in attack - sharing 52% of the possession stats and having 23 shots at goal.

For 35 minute or so at Arsenal, United were organised and disclipined at the back against a decent side, something which hasn’t been displayed all season.

The only downside to it is it’s hard to laud the positves when you’re bottom of the Premier League table and without a win.

Each game Newcastle now go into, there is an element of desperation because their position in the top-flight is very close to reaching that.

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As a club, they need to get this winless duck off their back as soon as possible - and this week’s fixtures won’t present a better opportunity.

Martin Dubravka makes an impact

Dubravka returned to the starting XI after three months out with a foot injury - and it looked like he’d never been away.

Recalled ahead of Karl Darlow after his error last time out, the Slovakian was a calming presence, arguably a major reason behind his side’s organised start.

Within in the opening 10 minutes, Dubravka came 10 yards off his goalline to gather a corner, prompting the away end to sing his name.

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He also dived to keep out Martin Odegaard’s free-kick before quite brilliantly reacting to push Emile Smith Rowe’s point-blank header away.

He could do nothing about either of Arsenal’s goals by Buyako Saka and Gabriel Martinelli.

The 32-year-old will, however, have a huge part as the club pushes to get out this deep relegation battle.

A huge few days in Newcastle’s season

Newcastle host Norwich City and Burnley back-to-back at St James’ Park in the space of five days - and it’s looking extremely likely it will define their fate.

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Yes, it’s still early days but those two sides are currently and will be right next to United in the table come May.

Losing is unthinkable, while drawing inspires zero confidence as the search for the first win stretches into a 14th matchday.

Win both however, and the whole mood changes completely, not just on Tyneside but at the clubs in and around them as well.

Time for Federico Fernandez and Jamal Lewis?

Conversations around Federico Fernandez’s mysterious axing are becoming a bit repetitive after he was left out for the fifth matchday squad in a row.

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Dwight Gayle’s injury would either see Fernandez and Jeff Hendrick called up to the bench - and it was the latter who got the nod.

Jamaal Lascelles is banned for the visit of Norwich City on Tuesday after picking up his fifth yellow card of the campaign, so you’d presume the Argentine will return.

Will that be from the bench or in the starting XI? Time will time. Perhaps Howe will urge on the side of caution given Fernandez hasn’t played since early October.

Also sitting out of Tuesday will be Matt Ritchie for the exact same reason as United’s club captain.

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Jamal Lewis hasn’t started a Premier League game since February and has played just three minutes in the league this term.

A recall in time to face his former club is an opportunity he deserves. Lewis should in no way be written off at Newcastle because he hasn’t had a fair crack since his £15m.

The role Howe asks his full-backs to play on paper looks tailor-made for the 23-year-old.

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