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Newcastle 2021-22 season review - star player, best moment, standout result

:Headline: Newcastle 2021-22 season review - star player, best moment, standout result:
Sports Mole takes an in-depth look at Newcastle United's 2021-22 season, in which the Magpies became one of the richest clubs in the world.
Sports Mole

From facing the prospect of another devastating Premier League relegation to becoming the richest club in the world, the 2021-22 season was quite the rollercoaster for Newcastle United.

The campaign began like any other. Disdain towards owner Mike Ashley, concerns over the managerial style of Steve Bruce, and a distinct lack of transfer activity barring the permanent signing of Joe Willock from Arsenal.

However, on October 7, 2021, Newcastle confirmed that a £300m deal was struck with the Saudi Public Investment Fund, Amanda Staveley and the Reuben brothers to take over at St James' Park - ending Ashley's abhorred 14-year reign and signalling an exciting new era in the North-East - with performances on the pitch certainly demonstrating as such.

Here, Sports Mole takes an in-depth look back at Newcastle's historic 2021-22 campaign.



SEASON OVERVIEW

Final league position: 11th

EFL Cup: Second round

FA Cup: Third round

Top scorer: Callum Wilson (8)

Most assists: Allan Saint-Maximin (5)

The sooner Newcastle fans were able to erase the month of August from their memory, the better. Bruce led his side to just one point from their first three Premier League games, the Magpies' defence was as open as ever, and their EFL Cup run would end at the first hurdle to Burnley.

The Magpies' winless streak continued until October - by which point the takeover saga and legal battles with the Premier League had been running on for a number of months - but after just seven games of the 2021-22 campaign, Ashley's ownership was no more.

A party atmosphere encompassed St James' Park as the club's Saudi-backed takeover eventually went through, and the promise of significant funds being made available for squad improvement saw Newcastle fans licking their lips at the club potentially being propelled back to the glory days.

Of course, the first matter at hand for the new owners was the managerial situation, with Bruce widely expected to depart as Newcastle sat 19th in the rankings at the time of the takeover, but the 61-year-old would remain in charge for the visit of Tottenham Hotspur - his 1000th game as a manager.

However, Bruce's tenure unsurprisingly came to an end after that 3-2 loss, as Eddie Howe and Jason Tindall arrived at the club and got straight down to business, but fears of an unthinkable relegation from the Premier League would only deepen in the coming weeks.

Newcastle spent three weeks in 20th place before finally posting their first win of the season at the 14th attempt - a 1-0 success over Burnley on December 4 before drubbings against Leicester City, Liverpool and Manchester City saw them occupy a place in the relegation zone before Christmas.

Unsurprisingly turning to their cash reserves for inspiration, Newcastle - as expected - were busy bees in the January transfer window. Kieran Trippier, Dan Burn, Chris Wood and Bruno Guimaraes all came through the door at St James' Park, and the quartet of new arrivals truly galvanised the squad.

Not one Newcastle fan will need reminding of their FA Cup giant killing at the hands of League One side Cambridge United in the third round, but their Premier League fortunes improved drastically, with a nine-game unbeaten run seeing them surge away from the dotted line heading into the spring.

A controversial loss to Chelsea and painful late defeat to Everton - courtesy of Alex Iwobi's 99th minute winner - proved that it was not all sunshine and rainbows just yet for Newcastle, who were also thumped 5-1 by Tottenham Hotspur.

However, the Brazilian brilliance of Guimaraes and Joelinton saw Newcastle string another set of wins together in April, while they also gave Liverpool a good run for their money before being thumped by Manchester City.

By the time Arsenal made the visit to St James' Park for Newcastle's final home game of the season, Howe's side were already mathematically safe from the drop and finally managed to end their Big Six hoodoo with a 2-0 success - with the second goal ironically coming from Guimaraes, whom the Gunners lost out on the signature of to the Magpies.

A top-half finish was still possible on the final day of the season away to Burnley, and they did what they needed to do by relegating the Clarets with a 2-1 success, but the top-10 spot was just a step too far following results elsewhere.



PREMIER LEAGUE STATS

Wins: 13 (=10th)
Draws: 10 (=7th)
Losses: 15 (10th)
Goals scored: 44 (12th)
Goals conceded: 62 (6th)
Yellow cards: 79 (=2nd)
Red cards: 2 (=9th)
Passes: 12,503 (19th)
Shots: 449 (=11th)
Big chances missed: 28 (18th)
Saves: 107 (12th)
Tackles: 659 (6th)
Own goals: 2 (=4th)
Hit woodwork: 7 (=20th)
Clearances: 743 (10th)



HOW DID IT COMPARE TO LAST SEASON?

Off the pitch, the contrast at St James' Park could hardly be greater. However, Newcastle only ended up one place better off in the Premier League after securing a 12th-placed standing in 2020-21.

Howe's side did accumulate four more points this time around but actually ended with a worse goal difference - they conceded 62 goals in both seasons but scored 46 last term compared to 44 in 2021-22.

While their progress in the Premier League was evident in the second half of the season, the less said about Newcastle's cup fortunes, the better. In 2020-21, Bruce took the Magpies all the way to the quarter-finals of the EFL Cup before being eliminated by Brentford.

This time around, Newcastle would fall at the first hurdle, as Burnley left St James' Park with their name in the hat for the third round after a penalty shootout victory all the way back in August.

Losing to then-defending FA Cup champions Arsenal in 2020-21 was certainly not disastrous for Newcastle, who pushed the Gunners all the way in that third-round clash before succumbing to two extra-time goals.

An early January exit would also befall the six-time FA Cup champions this time around, but it was a far more embarrassing affair, as Joe Ironside struck the winner for a giant-killing Cambridge United side to force the ambitious new owners to wait a little while longer for that coveted trophy.



PLAYER OF THE SEASON - BRUNO GUIMARAES

Widely expected to join a club already established in Europe, Bruno Guimaraes took quite the risk leaving Lyon for Newcastle midway through the season, but his marquee signing certainly showed that the Magpies mean serious business.

The 24-year-old may have only been at St James' Park for half of the season, but his impact in the middle of the park has been second to none and he has made every penny of his £33m move worthwhile - coming up with crucial goals against Southampton, Leicester City, Norwich City and Arsenal.

It took Guimaraes a short while to properly cement himself in Newcastle's first XI, but the Brazilian lynchpin is now one of the first names on Howe's team sheet, and recording five goals and an assist from 17 matches represents a stellar start to his Premier League career.



STANDOUT RESULT

Not since April 2018 had Newcastle beaten Arsenal in any competition. Not since September of that year had they scored against the Gunners. The Magpies had only taken one point off the 'Big Six' sides all season before matchday 37. None of that mattered at St James' Park.

A mesmerizing pre-match show of support from the club's fanbase preceded a magnificent showing from Newcastle on the pitch as they rounded off their home campaign in style - barely allowing the Gunners a sniff and counting themselves unlucky not to score four or five on the day.

Howe's side were frustrated in a goalless opening period before Ben White turned into his own net to break the deadlock, and Guimaraes showed Mikel Arteta exactly what he missed out on with an insurance goal in the dying embers.

Amanda Staveley, Mehrdad Ghodoussi and even Ant & Dec joined in on the post-match celebrations as Newcastle players and their families conducted a guard of honour around St James' Park, with the raucous fanbase now believing that something special was happening at their club, and it was long overdue.

> Click here for a full list of Newcastle's results from the 2021-22 season



BEST MOMENT

Newcastle enjoyed plenty of bright moments on the pitch in the second half of the season, but the end of Ashley's reign could not come soon enough, and celebrations were rife upon the completion of the club's Saudi-backed takeover.

The process to oust Ashley began right at the start of the enforced COVID-19 shutdowns in April 2020, but negotiations were lengthened drastically amid opposition from rival Premier League clubs and most notably beIN Sports, who demanded the Premier League block the takeover.

The deal had seemingly collapsed in the summer - much to the fury of the fanbase - but an agreement was eventually reached after Saudi Arabia lifted its beIN Sports ban, and Magpies fans celebrated long into the night.

Of course, the club may forever be tarnished with the sportswashing label under the current regime - especially given the controversy surrounding Saudi Arabia's human rights record - but the ardent supporters will not care so long as improvements continue to be made on the pitch, and that process has got off to a pretty good start so far.



TOP PRIORITY FOR SUMMER

Of course, Newcastle addressed many of the glaring issues in their squad during the January transfer window, and Howe has affirmed that Financial Fair Play rules will not allow the Magpies to spend ridiculous money this summer.

However, fans can still expect to see a plethora of new faces come through the door, with the first priority surely being to seal a permanent deal for Aston Villa loanee Matt Targett, who has already teased that he wants to stay put at St James' Park.

The Sean Longstaff contract fiasco must also be sorted out as soon as possible - as things stand, the 24-year-old will be able to walk away for free at the end of the season, but Howe is hopeful of a positive resolution being reached soon.

Even if Longstaff does not elect to pen fresh terms, Leeds United's Kalvin Phillips could be a viable option to beef up the midfield as he aims to increase his chances of a place in England's World Cup squad, but luring him away from Elland Road will be that little bit more difficult now that the Whites have secured survival.

A new goalkeeper has been mooted amid links with Bernd Leno and Dean Henderson, but Howe currently sees no need to displace Martin Dubravka, and there is a glaringly obvious issue in the final third.

Chris Wood turns 30 in December and only has two league goals to his name in a Newcastle shirt so far, while Callum Wilson's injury woes will always hang over his head. Therefore, bolstering the number nine spot - either with a big name in Darwin Nunez or taking a punt on a young gem in Hugo Ekitike - is priority number one.



FINAL VERDICT

A Newcastle fan who has not been left satisfied with their side's season is a rare breed indeed. A campaign that began with so much disarray and discontent during Bruce's ill-fated tenure was transformed by a multitude of factors.

Splashing the cash on players who have elevated the club to a new level, combined with a young and hungry manager who has stamped his authority onto the squad has been the recipe for success for the Magpies this term - even if their Premier League finish barely differed to last season's.

Of course, the Magpies were never expected to make an immediate charge for Europe following the takeover, and should things continue to go swimmingly from hereon in, it will still take a couple of years for the club to rejoin the continental conversation - see Manchester City.

Nevertheless, the promise of more top-quality players coming through the door and a sense of unity around St James' Park means that it is a very exciting time to be a Newcastle fan.


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