'Very serious' - Newcastle United fitness claim after star ruled out for three months

Newcastle United boss Eddie Howe and defender Sven Botman. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)Newcastle United boss Eddie Howe and defender Sven Botman. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
Newcastle United boss Eddie Howe and defender Sven Botman. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
Newcastle United defender Sven Botman missed three months of the 2023-24 campaign with a knee injury.

Newcastle United boss Eddie Howe has defended Sven Botman after the Dutchman was criticised for his performance during Saturday night's 4-1 defeat at Arsenal.

Botman's own goal opened the scoring at the Emirates before a misplaced pass led to the Gunners making it 3-0. He was replaced by Jamaal Lascelles on 72 minutes in what Magpies legend Alan Shearer described as his worst performance in a Newcastle shirt.

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The 24-year-old had been sidelined for three months following a knee injury he sustained in September but returned to action in December. His performance have been mixed since then, but Howe says the centre-back needs time to reach his best levels.

Newcastle United boss Eddie Howe and defender Sven Botman. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)Newcastle United boss Eddie Howe and defender Sven Botman. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
Newcastle United boss Eddie Howe and defender Sven Botman. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Howe said: “Sven had a very serious knee and he’s come back to fitness. I think he’s improved with each game but I think he is still working his way back to his very best levels.

"With his knee injury, it’s something we’re monitoring and we hope that he continues to not feel his knee and his knee is able to adapt to Premier League football. Certainly, as I say, it was a very significant injury. 

"To play Premier League football you have to be in peak condition, you can’t get away with playing the game if you’re not. He’s fit to play, he’s done the work but as I said, it was a significant injury. Hopefully within a few more weeks he’ll be back to his very best levels."

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After facing further questions on Botman's form, Howe replied: “For me, there should be no focus on Sven, the focus needs to be on the team to perform better than it did. There is no one individual that let us down.

"Myself included weren’t at our best against Arsenal and when you’re not at your best against the very best sides in the division you get punished, and that’s what happened."

Botman is set to retain his place in the starting XI for Tuesday's FA Cup fifth round clash away to Blackburn Rovers, where he will also consider recalling Joe Willock.

Willock had been sidelined since November with an Achilles injury but marked his return with a consolation goal against the Gunners on Saturday.

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“It’s a difficult one," when asked if the midfielder could start at Ewood Park, "It’s something I’ll have to discuss at length with the medical team and I think he’s very, very close to starting.

"He’s done a lot of work although we’ve only seen the 30 minutes he played at Arsenal. He’s done a lot of work behind the scenes to get himself in this position so that’ll be a judgement call.”

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