Newcastle were right to choose Eddie Howe over Unai Emery – and two hammerings prove it

Newcastle United's Bruno Guimaraes celebrates/Newcastle secure first Premier League win of 2024
Bruno Guimaraes' delight at the victory over Villa is evident - Andrew Boyers/Action Images

Newcastle United’s season had been in danger of becoming a repetitive tale of frustration and irritation, but they ripped up the script to deliver a major plot twist with a stunning victory over Aston Villa.

It was Villa’s first defeat at home in the league since they lost to Arsenal in February last year. A team indomitable on home soil for more than 11 months, who have beaten Arsenal and Manchester City, thrashed by a side that had not won away in the league since September.

This has been a remarkable season for Villa. So far, manager Unai Emery has done a fantastic job which will surely make him one of the leading candidates to be named manager of the year in May, but he has been spanked twice by Eddie Howe this season.

Torn apart at St James’ Park 5-1 on the opening weekend and outplayed again by Newcastle’s diagonal balls over the top of their high line defence. Newcastle should have scored more than the three goals they did, two for centre back Fabian Schar and an own goal he could do nothing about from Alex Moreno.

They got in behind Villa’s defence so often, so easily. Newcastle have never had reason to regret the fact Emery turned down the manager’s job at St James’ Park before they offered it to Howe in November 2021. This will merely reinforce their view that, as good as Emery is, they believe Howe is a better fit for them. The aggregate score between the two clubs this season is 8-2.

Eddie Howe
Few expected Newcastle to get the win at Fortress Villa Park but Eddie Howe's team were the better side and deserved the three points - Getty Images/Catherine Ivill

“Our game plan was to really be aggressive and try and stop their rhythm,” said Howe. “That was like us last season.. Use our pace on transitions and get in behind, knowing that Aston Villa play quite a high line.

“I thought the players executed it brilliantly. It’s sort of mixed emotions for me because I look at that team tonight and I think, ‘That’s an elite team, a team that’s capable of achieving great things’. We haven’t seen that for a number of weeks. It’s been a really challenging period for us; a number of injuries, the team has looked disjointed. We looked much more like ourselves.”

After so many setbacks and so many injuries - Alexander Isak limped off before half time here - this was arguably Howe’s most impressive victory of the season, definitely away from home. Nobody could have predicted it before it happened.

Aston Villa, the side with the best home record in the Premier League versus Newcastle United, the team with the second worst away from home.

Only bottom club Sheffield United had taken fewer points on the road this season before this, but just as it looked like Newcastle’s season was going to unravel, they pulled off a win like this and moved up to seventh.

Football’s allure is shaped by its variables. Its enduring appeal is fuelled by its inability to be straightforward or predictable.

Away from home, where they have struggled for so long, it was Newcastle who controlled the tempo of the game, slowing it down to a stroll and then suddenly making a thrust forward to attack. Time and again they looked like exposing Villa’s high line with runners from inside their own half. First Isak got away but had his shot smothered. Then Anthony Gordon, running onto a magnificent curling pass from Jacob Murphy, should have scored. Ezri Konsa did brilliantly to get back, but Gordon still managed to get a shot away, hitting the trailing leg of goalkeeper Emilano Martinez.

Villa did not learn and after Bruno Guimaraes had lifted another long ball for Gordon to run clear, only a kind deflection off Konsa stopped Newcastle taking the lead. From the resulting corner, Villa’s defence evaporated, allowing Schar to sweep home on the edge of the six-yard box.

Schar had a second four minutes later from another corner. Villa struggled to clear Kieran Trippier’s initial ball and when Gordon’s crisp volley deflected on to the bar, it left the unmarked Schar a tap in.

Villa have had bad halves before this season, but this was different. Their start to the second half would be crucial but things got even worse early as Lewis Miley and substitute Miguel Almiron hustled to turnover possession on the halfway line. Gordon took things on, played in Almiron and his whipped cross was bundled in at the far post by Murphy, via a very kind deflection off Moreno.

Newcastle, as they have done for most of the last two months, with no attacking or midfield players to put on, grew weary. Villa started to have more joy, but although they pulled a goal back from Ollie Watkins, this was a very sobering defeat.

Newcastle shock Villa – as it happened

10:32 PM GMT

Howe again gets better of Emery

10:29 PM GMT

It had to end some time...

10:25 PM GMT

Fabian Schar and Jacob Murphy speak to TNT Sport - 'This will give us confidence for the rest of the season'

Schar on whether he expected to score twice...

“No! I am just happy with the points and the goals. We were unbelievable today. Villa Park is a tough place to come so really happy...I was in the right position and it’s great to help the team with the goals and get the win today.”

Murphy on what the result means...

“We’ve been a bit too inconsistent this season. We’ve had players out this season and some are now coming back in. This is a step to push on for the second half of the season.”

Schar on the win...

“This will give us a lot of confidence for the rest of the season.”

10:17 PM GMT

FULL-TIME: Aston Villa 1 Newcastle 3

That’s it and it’s a deserved win for Newcastle to end a run of four straight defeats in the league, and what a place to do it at - Fortress Aston Villa.

10:16 PM GMT

99 mins: Aston Villa 1 Newcastle 3

Gordon is replaced by Krath and deservedly gets a standing ovation from the visiting fans (to be fair they’ve been standing all game and will always applaud one of their players, but you catch my drift). He’s been brilliant tonight and must be moving more and more onto Southgate’s radar.

10:13 PM GMT

98 mins: Aston Villa 1 Newcastle 3

Corner for Villa after yet more good work from Bailey, who’s looked good since coming on off the bench. Newcastle clear the danger away well and even the most pessimistic Newcastle fan can now celebrate.

10:10 PM GMT

96 mins: Aston Villa 1 Newcastle 3

Villa are huffing and puffing but failing to get anywhere near to blowing the Newcastle house down.

10:07 PM GMT

93 mins: Aston Villa 1 Newcastle 3

Corner for Villa - they need something from this. And they so nearly have it. Lenglet gets in front of Schar but cannot direct his header on goal.

10:06 PM GMT

90 mins: Aston Villa 1 Newcastle 3

There will be at least nine minutes of added time.

10:05 PM GMT

89 mins: Aston Villa 1 Newcastle 3

It should be 4-1 to Newcastle. They have men a plenty over in the box. It’s a lovely move, the ball played casually from man to man before Longstaff is played in one-on-one with Martinez who makes a great save with his feet.

10:04 PM GMT

87 mins: Aston Villa 1 Newcastle 3

There’s a clash between Trippier and Moreno - an arm to the chest it looks like. The Newcastle man looks hurt but he eventfully gets up to take the resulting free-kick on the right in the final third. The England international, however, fails to beat the first man and the chance to make it four goes.

10:01 PM GMT

85 mins: Aston Villa 1 Newcastle 3

Newcastle, as you’d expect, are defending in number and defending well.

09:59 PM GMT

83 mins: Aston Villa 1 Newcastle 3

Time is running out for the hosts, Cash plays a ball into the box for Watkins to try and get on the end of, but Dubravka comes and claims well.

09:56 PM GMT

80 mins: Aston Villa 1 Newcastle 3

Newcastle have seemingly weathered the brief Villa storm, just the 10 or or minutes to navigate now.

09:55 PM GMT

77 mins: Aston Villa 1 Newcastle 3

Another Newcastle corner nearly results in another Newcastle goal for yep, you’ve guessed it, Schar. It falls for the defender at the back post before he has a go with his left peg, Lenglet makes a great block to prevent the Swiss from scoring an unlikely hat-trick...

09:52 PM GMT

75 mins: Aston Villa 1 Newcastle 3

It’s amazing what a goal does - the Villa fans have belief and are now making all the noise. Another strike from the hosts and this would be a very nervous final 15 for Newcastle.

09:50 PM GMT

Have Villa and Watkins scored again?

It’s the same combination of Bailey to Watkins, this time Watkins is found from the middle, before finishing with a lovely dinked finish. It’s a lovely goal but the flag is goes to VAR and after a minute the on field decision stays...

09:47 PM GMT


Aston Villa 1 Newcastle 3

Watkins at the near post. They’re back in this match (well, sort of...). Burn, who like the rest of the Newcastle backline has had a good match, is caught out and Bailey is free on the right. He sees Watkins’ run, finds his man and the striker sltos home to notch up his 50th Premier League goal.

09:46 PM GMT

69 mins: Aston Villa 0 Newcastle 3

He ultimately flagged offside but Gordon is free in the inside-right channel before shooting just wide - another goal for Newcastle and it definitely would be game over.

Villa need a goal now or it’s gone already...

09:45 PM GMT

67 mins: Aston Villa 0 Newcastle 3

More pressure from Villa, and the subs have made an impact. Bailey makes a lovely turn to turn Burn inside out. He’s free and plays a good reverse pass to Cash whose shot is save well.

09:41 PM GMT

64 mins: Aston Villa 0 Newcastle 3

Villa need to score soon if they are to have a chance of somehow getting something from this match.

As I type Watkins shoots from the right-hand side of the box forcing Dubravka into a good save. It was an intelligent run by the striker but the attempt lacked venom and was from an acute angle.

09:39 PM GMT

61 mins: Aston Villa 0 Newcastle 3

A triple change for Villa. Tielemand, Diaby and Kamara make way for Zaniolo, Bailey and Ramsey.

09:38 PM GMT

60 mins: Aston Villa 0 Newcastle 3

More like it from the hosts - Watkins plays a lovely pass for Diaby who decides to take the ball round Dubravka, his shot ending up being blocked. In hindsight he should have taken that first time, the Newcastle keeper was coming off his line and might well have been flatfooted when any shot was struck. That is, I admit, easier typed than done.

09:35 PM GMT

59 mins: Aston Villa 0 Newcastle 3

Villa look as though they’ve had the wind (however much there was there in the first place) knocked out of their sails with that third goal...

09:34 PM GMT

Three and easy for Newcastle

09:33 PM GMT

55 mins: Aston Villa 0 Newcastle 3

This match - the scoreline and performances - has been strange. Villa haven’t looked like a team with the best home record in the league and Newcastle have looked far from the side with one of the worst away records.

What’s the phrase Jimmy Greaves used to utter a lot? Yep, that’s it: Football’s a funny old game...

09:27 PM GMT


Aston Villa 0 Newcastle 3

Murphy finishes a fine move down the left and, you suspect, this is game over already.

Cash loses the ball on the halfway line. Gordon picks it up and drives at the Villa box, he plays Almiron whose low cross to the back post finds Murphy and he prods home, the ball coming of a last-ditch tackle from Moreno before finding the back of the net. And it is actually given as an own-goal..

09:27 PM GMT

49 mins: Aston Villa 0 Newcastle 2

The host must have heard my pleas...Watkins is played in by Tielemans, the striker is made to stretch for the ball, he tries to toe-poke it and only succeeds in making contact with the on-rushing Dubravka. As OK a pass as it was by the Belgian, you suspect Watkins wouldn’t have had as much work to do had he played the ball outside of the Newcastle defender, Schar, rather than inside him.

09:24 PM GMT

48 mins: Aston Villa 0 Newcastle 2

Now the visitors have a free-kick in the Villa half. Trippier delivers but again the hosts defend their lines well. Villa could do with putting Newcastle under pressure sooner rather than later...

09:22 PM GMT

46 mins: Aston Villa 0 Newcastle 2

Villa have to get Watkins in the game this half - they could start by getting the ball in the box more. They were guilty, once or twice, of making one pass too many in the first 45 minutes.

The first corner of the second half goes the way of Newcastle, but the ball, delivered to the back post is well defended by the hosts.

09:21 PM GMT

45 mins: Aston Villa 0 Newcastle 2

They’re back under way in Birmingham - no changes from either manager.

09:17 PM GMT

Villa sliced apart so far...

Newcastle have been superb. Aston Villa have been sliced apart with long balls over the top for players in black and white to run onto. A huge shock is on the cards as the team with the best home record in the Premier League trailing 2-0 to a side with one of the worst away records.

Newcastle, though, have lost another player to injury with Alexander Isak limping off before the break and have tended to visibly tire around the hour mark in recent weeks.

09:08 PM GMT

Schar's second strike

09:06 PM GMT

HALF-TIME Aston Villa 0 Newcastle 2

Well played Newcastle, while not dominating they’ve been the better team and are worth their lead. Until that last flurry at the end Villa have been a bit limp up front and lacked any cutting edge. Big team talk needed from Emery.

09:05 PM GMT

48 mins: Aston Villa 0 Newcastle 2

Good bit of pressure from the hosts sees them earn a corner after a dent move down the right. A cute bit of play from Watkins, getting in front of the keeper and defender earns another corner. From this delivery McGinn should score, but rather than his header finding the back of the net his attempt goes over from close range.

09:03 PM GMT

47 mins: Aston Villa 0 Newcastle 2

There’s a lovely ball over the top for Moreno who plays in Watkins but before the striker can even think of going for goal play is stopped as the flag is up for offside. It’s the right decision, Moreno was slightly offside on the left there.

09:01 PM GMT

45 mins: Aston Villa 0 Newcastle 2

There will be four minutes of added time.

08:58 PM GMT

42 mins: Aston Villa 0 Newcastle 2

Early forced change for Newcastle: It looked as though Isak was struggling and he’s made way for the returning Almiron (or Alistair Miron as I like to call him...).

08:56 PM GMT

40 mins: Aston Villa 0 Newcastle 2

Villa haven’t looked threatening at all and that, as much as the scoreline, will trouble Unai/Dick Emery.

08:55 PM GMT

Here's the opener

08:51 PM GMT


Aston Villa 0 Newcastle 2

Schar again! From another corner the ball comes out to Gordon who tries his luck from distance. It gets a touch from Lenglet sending the ball against the crossbar with Martinez back pedalling. Schar has stayed up in the box and has the fairly easy task of tapping the ball into the back of the net.

Newcastle have had a go this half and are deservedly in front.

08:48 PM GMT


Aston Villa 0 Newcastle 1

Schar scores from a corner. The set pieces have been poor until this one. The ball is delivered from the right, a Newcastle flick on send the ball into the six-yard box and Schar does brilliantly to get in front of Konsa to prod the ball into the back of the net.

They’ve been the better side and just deserve that lead.

08:48 PM GMT

29 mins: Aston Villa 0 Newcastle 0

Two good chances in a minute, on for both sides.

(i) Newcastle nearly score after Martinez pushes a shot out for Gordon to shoot, Lenglet gets in a great block to prevent the goal.

(ii) Villa then go to the other end of the pitch, the ball finds Luiz who dinks it over the Newcastle back line, Michael Laudrup-like, and Kamara nearly gets on the end of it.

08:43 PM GMT

27 mins: Aston Villa 0 Newcastle 0

Corner for Newcastle after good work from Miley. AND once again nothing comes of it.

08:42 PM GMT

25 mins: Aston Villa 0 Newcastle 0

Villa are seeing more of the ball now and prodding and probing with interest. Dubravka yet to make a save, however.

08:40 PM GMT

Looking on with interest

Neither manager has had much to cheer so far.


08:38 PM GMT

21 mins: Aston Villa 0 Newcastle 0

Diaby again is free in the box on the right. It’s a lovely take and give from Tielemans and Diaby really has to go for goal. But rather than go for the easy option he decides to pass it to no one in particular. Infuriating to watch.

08:36 PM GMT

19 mins: Aston Villa 0 Newcastle 0

Great chance for Newcastle. It’s a great pass in behind Konsa to find Gordon. The former Everton man cuts back twice before his shot is saved by Martinez. It comes back to Gordon who lays it off to Isak whose attempt is deflected wide.

08:34 PM GMT

16 mins: Aston Villa 0 Newcastle 0

Better from Villa who do well down the right Diaby should have done better with the cut back. At least the home fans have something to cheer about.

08:31 PM GMT

14 mins: Aston Villa 0 Newcastle 0

Newcastle again get in behind the Villa backline - Trippier finds Isak who dithers in the box rather than give the ball back to the right-back who had continued his run.

The visitors definitely on top at the moment.

08:30 PM GMT

13 mins: Aston Villa 0 Newcastle 0

Still no work for either keeper so far - that will please the visitors more than the hosts who, if truth be told (I try not to tell porkies...) haven’t really got going yet.

As I type Newcastle again attack down the right. Iask plays in Miley in the inside-left channel, and his cross goes just beyond the lurking-with-intent attackers at the back post.

08:28 PM GMT

Matty Cash walking out onto the pitch...

...or an album cover?

Matty Cash
Matty Cash

08:25 PM GMT

9 mins: Aston Villa 0 Newcastle 0

This has been a good, positive start for Newcastle. They again do well down the left and earn a corner. From this set piece they go short to Gordon before Trippier’s ball into the box is well blocked by Cash. Three set pieces so far this match and all have been pretty dire...

08:23 PM GMT

7 mins: Aston Villa 0 Newcastle 0

Corner for Villa - the hosts first chance to put Dubravka in the Newcastle goal under pressure. But, as with the Newcastle free-kick, nothing comes of it as McGinn’s ball in is easily headed away.

08:21 PM GMT

5 mins: Aston Villa 0 Newcastle 0

Free-kick for Newcastle in the final third on the left - all thanks to some clever play from Gordon, Konsa falling for it.

Can they create something from this? ‘Nope’ is the answer as Trippier’s delivery is pretty poor and Villa can clear their lines.

08:18 PM GMT

3 mins: Aston Villa 0 Newcastle 0

All shadow boxing so far, bits of possession for both sides, no one has flirted with goal yet.

08:17 PM GMT

2 mins: Aston Villa 0 Newcastle 0

The TNT commentary team have just pointed out that this fixture was a Championship one as recently as 2017, which seems bizarre now...

08:15 PM GMT

1 min: Aston Villa 0 Newcastle 0

They’re under way at Villa Park, the hosts are in their famous claret and blue, and the visitors are in their equally recognisable black and white kit. Not a garish away number in sight, phew...

Can Villa maintain their blistering home form? We’re about to find out.

08:12 PM GMT

The teams are out on the pitch

And kick-off is now moments away.

08:10 PM GMT

Ollie Watkins searching for a goal tonight

(i) Because as a striker it’s his job.

(ii) He hasn’t found the back of the net in six matches.

(iii) He’d notch up his 50th Premier League goal should he score this evening.

Ollie Watkins
Ollie Watkins

08:02 PM GMT

A reminder of Newcastle's poor run of form in the top flight

December 23: Lost 1-0 at Luton
December 26: Lost 3-1 at home to Nottingham Forest 
January 1: Lost 4-2 at Liverpool 
January 13: Lost 3-2 at home to Man City

Eddie Howe
Eddie Howe and Newcastle could do with a result tonight - Action Images via Reuters/Lee Smith

07:48 PM GMT

Eddie Howe speaks to TNT Sport - 'We believe we can still have a great season'

On the challenge facing his side tonight...

“It’s a really good challenge. We come into it on the back of a win, so we’re in high spirits. We know we’ll have to play well, defend well and give them problems in attack.”

On Newcastle’s poor away record...

“Our away form not bad - we’ve shown we can go to tough places and perform well, as we did at PSG. It’s just not been the same in the Premier League but what a place to prove we can do that in Premier League.”

On what Newcastle have to do tonight...

“We have to be on top our game. These are the type of games where we can show our top levels. We still believe we can have a great season.”

07:44 PM GMT

Unai Emery speaks to TNT Sport - 'It is a good test'

On facing Newcastle tonight...

“After one month [away] we are motivated and excited to play Newcastle and win in front of our fans.”

On whether this match will offer a good measure of how far Villa have come...

“Yes, we try to focus on Newcastle, for us it is a very good test. They were very good last year and in top four. They are still contenders more than us to be in top seven teams. We have improved since the opening day.”

On what he wants to see this evening...

“[I want us to keep going, to keep same style, trying to improve at home, it’s important to win but also how we do that. We want a keep a clean sheet.”

07:39 PM GMT

Villa start as favourites

No shock there - the hosts have the best home record in the Premier League and no one has left Villa Park with three points this season. Conversely, Newcastle have the second worst away record in the top flight and come into the match on the back of four straight defeats in the Premier League.

Easy three points for the hosts then, no?

If only it was that simple...

Villa Park
Home sweet home, for Aston Villa - PA/Jacob King

07:27 PM GMT

Fancy a flutter?

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07:26 PM GMT

Here are the two teams in old-fashioned black and white

ASTON VILLA  XI TO FACE NEWCASTLE: Martinez, Cash, Konsa, Lenglet, Moreno, McGinn, Luiz, Kamara, Tielemans, Diaby, Watkins Subs: Olsen, Wright, Carlos, Chambers, Zaniolo, Kesler-Hayden, Bailey, Ramsey, Iroegbunam

Unai Emery names an unchanged side from the side which drew 0-0 with Chelsea in the FA Cup on Friday.

NEWCASTLE XI TO FACE ASTON VILLA: Dubravka, Trippier, Schar, Botman, Burn, Miley, Guimaraes, S Longstaff, Murphy, Isak, Gordon. Subs: Karius, Dummett, Ritchie, Krafth, Hall, Livramento, Almiron, White, Hernes

Snap! Eddie Howe has also gone and named an unchanged XI. The same team that beat Fulham 2-0 in the FA Cup at the weekend takes the field tonight.

07:16 PM GMT

Here be Aston Villa's staring XI

07:15 PM GMT

Here's the Newcastle XI

03:19 PM GMT

How times change

Regardless of what has happened since, there’s a reason why Aston Villa fans may not want to cast their minds back to the opening day of the season. Having approached the season full of optimism Unai Emery’s team were thrashed 5-1 by Newcastle. The hosts were rampant, and, buoyed by the scoreline, the campaign promised to be another successful stepping stone as the Saudi riches rolled on.

As with much of life, that’s not how it panned out. In fact, for both sides, that result was somewhat of an anomaly.

For that day’s hosts the victory that promised much turned out to be the highlight of a season so far that, far from being a disaster, has not hit the heights of their last campaign. Hampered by FFP they are unable to splash the cash as their fans would hope and may even have to sell before the end of the window.

For Villa, the result was an extremely rare low point in a campaign that has seen them settled in the top four and beat title-chasers Manchester City and Arsenal.

Such has been Villa’s form that before Christmas many had them, understandably, as title contenders. Defeat to Manchester United and just one game in January – an underwhelming 0-0 draw against Everton – has slightly got in the way of the side’s momentum. But victory against the visitors tonight would give any lingering hopes of a title push a much-needed shot in the arm and once again underline the freak nature of the opening-day defeat.

Acknowledging that their season had been tough Emery said his side are aware that Newcastle will still pose a big challenge at Villa Park tonight.

“They are not being like last year when they had an amazing season, played fantastic and qualified for the Champions League. They were successful in the cups as well,” the Villa manager said.

“This year is different, but my respect has not changed. We are going to respect them like they deserve and we are ready for tomorrow.”

Stay here for all the team news and pre-match analysis ahead of kick-off which is all set for 8.15.

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