Newcastle boss Eddie Howe is making no apologies for his team’s no-nonsense approach to winning football matches.
The Magpies headed for Germany on Monday ahead of Tuesday night’s Champions League clash with European big guns Borussia Dortmund, having muscled their way past Premier League rivals Arsenal on Saturday evening to add another significant scalp to their season’s collection.
Gunners manager Mikel Arteta was incandescent in the wake of the 1-0 defeat at St James’ Park, which was secured by Anthony Gordon’s lone strike, but only after it survived – much to the Spaniard’s disgust – three separate VAR checks, although his mood was not improved by the manner in which the Magpies blunted his attack.
However Howe, whose team was on the end of side-swipes from Arteta and Manchester United counterpart Erik ten Hag last season, said: “We’re not intentionally ruffling any feathers, we’re just trying to win.
“I want the players to stand up for each other, I want them to play competitive football. I want us to be strong in certain moments – which we have to be – and I think we did all of those things on Saturday.
“I’ve got no issue at all with how we played.”
Newcastle skipper Jamaal Lascelles was furious that Arsenal counterpart Jorginho, who had been involved in one of the game’s flashpoints when he was caught off the ball by Bruno Guimaraes’ flailing arm, refused to shake his hand after the final whistle.
Howe said: “We just play the game. Look, I think we play hard, we play the game in a really strong way because we want to win. But I think we play fair and we will do the same again.”
Lascelles’ defensive colleague Fabian Schar was equally unrepentant when asked if he enjoyed the nastier side of the game.
The Switzerland international said: “I enjoy doing whatever it takes to win a game. Sometimes, it is what is needed.
“A game can go different ways. We know what we need to do.
“Sometimes you play nice football and sometimes, like Saturday, you have games that are really tight and intense, a lot of fouls. There were things off the pitch too.
“But I don’t really care, it’s the three points that matters.”
Victory over the Gunners came at a cost with left-back Dan Burn facing two months on the sidelines after landing on the base of his spine after an aerial challenge, while potential replacement Matt Targett could miss a month longer with a hamstring injury.
That leaves Howe’s resources in Germany severely depleted with wide-man Jacob Murphy, who needs surgery on a twice-dislocated shoulder, also having been added to a list of absentees which already included the suspended Sandro Tonali and the injured Sven Botman, Alexander Isak, Harvey Barnes, Javier Manquillo and Elliot Anderson.
Newcastle already faced a stern of tests against a Dortmund side which won at St James’ Park a fortnight ago, but is still smarting from Saturday’s 4-0 home defeat by arch-rivals Bayern Munich, and while the degree of difficulty may have increased markedly, Schar is relishing the prospect of running out in front of a sell-out 81,000-plus crowd with his career seemingly reaching new highs by the week.
The 31-year-old said: “It’s definitely the best time in my career, to be honest. You’re playing in the best league, you’re playing, for myself, where I feel really comfortable.
“It feels my second home. I’ve been here now four or five years, so I feel really confident and obviously the city and the club. They gave me a lot and I just want to give something back.”