NEWCASTLE: Eddie Howe believes his Newcastle United side have the quality to overcome their current injury crisis at the back.
First-choice right-back Kieran Trippier and assistant Javier Manquillo will both miss the trip to West Ham United tomorrow, leaving the head coach with a defensive headache.
However, Howe doesn’t think it will derail the revival of the Magpies’ fortunes, and instead thinks it might just be the opportunity Sweden international Emil Krafth has been waiting for, next in line for the role.
“To work with Emil, I really like him as a person and as a player. You come back to the Manchester United game, he was exceptional for us that day, both defensively and offensively.
“He’s a very, very good athlete and a very good defender,” Howe said. “I’m delighted with Emil, delighted to have him in the team and this is the perfect opportunity for him to have a consistent run in the team.”
Trippier went under the knife earlier this week to repair a broken fifth metatarsal in his left foot, an injury sustained midway through the 1-0 home win over Aston Villa at St James’ Park on Sunday.
The injury, which could take up to 10 weeks to heal, is expected to keep Trippier out for much longer than the original six-week prognosis.
Howe remains hopeful that the player, the club’s stellar January transfer signing, will play again this season.
“He had his surgery and it went well, so that was good news,” he said. “I don’t know at the moment how long he will be out.
“We hope to bring him back before the end of the season but it’s a serious injury, which is a blow for us because he’s in good shape.”
When asked to set a deadline for the 31-year-old’s return, Howe repeated: “No deadline, we just hope to see him before the end of the season. We’ll just have to see how his first rehab goes.
“It’s an opportunity now for someone to take his place. We will miss his leadership and everything he brought to us. He scored two goals in two games, which were defining moments for us. , but we are confident that we have enough quality in the squad to cope.
For now, however, the team will also have to make do without Spaniard Manquillo, who was also injured in Villa’s win, although the damage isn’t as bad as initially feared.
“Manquillo was injured in the same game after landing awkwardly,” Howe said. “We don’t think it’s serious, but he will miss the (West Ham) game. Other than that, that’s how you were.
Three straight wins transformed the immediate complexion of United’s season. From deep in the relegation mire to four points clear – and a chance to go seven with a win this weekend.
As fans and pundits flip-flop with their emotions, going from positive to negative in a flash, Howe knows his players are down to earth whether they win, lose or draw at the London Stadium.
“The beauty of this team is that you have a lot of players who have been in this position before.
“They understand the ups and downs. The importance of not overreacting when things are going well or badly is key,” he said. “And I saw a group that trained well, focused, no signs of anyone relaxing or thinking we’re anywhere but in a relegation battle.”
After seeing Leeds United, Everton and Aston Villa in recent weeks, things picked up speed this weekend against the Hammers, who are chasing the Champions League.
Howe knows his players will need to be at their best to get anything from David Moyes’ side.
“I think David has done an amazing job, especially when you look at West Ham’s position in the league and the noise surrounding the club, when he came in,” Howe said of his counterpart.
“He’s done an incredible job of calming things down, getting results and now creating a very stable team with good team spirit,” he added. “They’ve delivered in a number of games this season, on a consistent basis. All my compliments to him and his staff as we know how difficult this is going to be for us.
“But with the run we’ve had, the confidence we have, we’ve proven that we can compete with anyone in this division. We will have to be at our best level again, especially physically, where we have excelled in the last games.