Burnley 1 Newcastle 4 – can Eddie Howe’s side finish fifth? Isak and Wilson milestones

Newcastle United are closing in on qualification for European football next season and a surprise fifth-place finish can’t be ruled out after they thrashed Burnley at Turf Moor.

Callum Wilson, Sean Longstaff and Bruno Guimaraes all scored in the first half and Alexander Isak added a fourth in the second soon after missing a penalty. Burnley scored late on through Dara O’Shea but their hopes of survival were significantly dented by a free-flowing Newcastle side.

Here The Athletic’s Chris Waugh and George Caulkin analyse the game.

Can Newcastle finish fifth?

If Chelsea’s victory over Tottenham Hotspur on Thursday had increased the nerves on Tyneside about Newcastle’s late-season European charge, then this really was the perfect tonic. In fact, those inside the club who have privately insisted that fifth place remains a target are perhaps looking, if not quite prophetic, then at least canny.

Chelsea in eighth and Manchester United in seventh are five and two points behind Howe’s side respectively, albeit both hold a game in hand, with vastly inferior goal differences to Newcastle’s +22.

Spurs, meanwhile, are only four points ahead in fifth place and, while they have a game in hand on Newcastle, they have lost their past three matches convincingly and still have Liverpool and Manchester City to play.

With a trip to Manchester United still to come, Newcastle’s European fate is in their own hands and, if they do finish in the top six, they will be guaranteed to be in continental competition next season.

It is increasingly appearing a case of which of the Europa League or Europa Conference League it will be for Howe’s team, rather than if they will be back touring the Continent and, given the challenges they have faced throughout 2023-24, that would represent some achievement.

How good were Isak and Wilson as a duo?

Isak and Wilson began a match together for the first time in 12 months, when a 0-0 draw was good enough to secure Champions League football. The wait for a reprise has been interminable, but it helped Newcastle take a mighty step towards a European return and it proved a big day for both.

This was more a proper front-two rather than Isak drifting wide. Initially, the Swede struggled to make an impact, taking 14 minutes to get his first touch, but he was involved in Newcastle’s first goal, drawing an instinctive save from Arijanet Muric with Wilson following up.

Wilson’s strike was his 47th in the league for Newcastle, lifting him beyond Peter Beardsley into outright second place in the list of the club’s record Premier League goalscorers. He now trails Alan Shearer by a mere 101 goals. It was only Wilson’s second start of 2024; he has scored nine league goals this season, the same number of games he has begun.

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Isak celebrates scoring soon after missing a penalty (Photo: Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Isak, meanwhile, hit the 20-goal league mark, the first Newcastle player to have done so since Shearer. On the way, he failed to convert his first penalty for the team, but it hardly mattered. His stats are phenomenal. Only Erling Haaland has scored more in the league this season.

Whether Isak and Wilson is a natural partnership is a moot point; Newcastle have certainly missed Wilson during an injury-ravaged campaign. Burnley would love to miss him; Wilson has scored six times in his last five games against them. Could he yet make a late run for England’s European Championship squad? Gareth Southgate was at Turf Moor …

Why did Howe go 4-4-2 on his 100th game in charge?

A 100th Premier League match in charge of Newcastle for Howe, an impressive 49th win, and yet still the head coach is finding ways to innovate and surprise his opponents.

On this occasion, it was a case of back to the future, as he deployed what was essentially a traditional 4-4-2 system. That is something Howe used regularly throughout his time at Bournemouth and early as Newcastle head coach, but he has rarely done so in recent seasons.

Earlier in the campaign, there were some pockets of supporters who questioned Howe’s tactical flexibility, with the suggestion that he was wedded to his preferred 4-3-3 set-up. However, in 2024, he has deployed a back three, a back five and has delivered several bespoke gameplans, tailored to the opposition and his own personnel.

The 4-4-2 against Burnley exploited the defensive weakness of Vincent Kompany’s side out wide, with Newcastle regularly getting to the byline and cutting balls back through their wingers, with Anthony Gordon and Jacob Murphy getting assists.

Despite having only one fit senior centre-back in Dan Burn, Howe’s makeshift back five, counting deputy goalkeeper Martin Dubravka and featuring Emil Krafth in the middle of defence, equipped themselves well.

With Joelinton and Miguel Almiron returning from injury off the bench, as well as Elliot Anderson and Harvey Barnes, Howe finally has a depth of options to choose from and further tactical set-ups may be deployed in the final three games.

What did Eddie Howe say?

We will bring you this after he has spoken at the post-match press conference.

What next for Newcastle?

Saturday, May 11: Brighton & Hove Albion (H), Premier League, 3pm BST, 10am ET

Since Brighton’s promotion to the Premier League in 2017, the two sides have faced off on 13 occasions in the top division — with Newcastle only winning two of those matches.

But the best omen for Newcastle is that those two wins have come under Eddie Howe in the past two seasons — and both were at St James’ Park. The standout was undoubtedly the 4-1 victory last May, which saw Dan Burn net against his former club.

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(Photo: Gareth Copley/Getty Images)

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