Newcastle United secured their highest league finish for 20 years last season and expectations will be high that the Magpies can at least match those exploits during 2023/24.
Stadium: St James' Park
Manager: Eddie Howe
Captain: Jamaal Lascelles
Top league scorer last season: Callum Wilson - 18
Last season’s position: 4th
Newcastle United's first full season under the ownership of the Public Investment Fund (PIF), and with Eddie Howe in the dugout, could hardly have gone any better, as the club ended the campaign in fourth position and qualified for the Champions League for the first time in 20 years.
Not only that, but the Magpies also reached the League Cup final - losing out to Manchester United in the Wembley showpiece - and it is fair to say their achievements of 2022/23 were way ahead of what the new owners would have been expecting so early into their reign.
New signings such as Alexander Isak, Sven Botman and Nick Pope all settled into life on Tyneside quickly, as Newcastle registered the joint-most top-flight points they have accumulated since Kevin Keegan's 'Entertainers' side of the 1995/96 campaign.
The Magpies outperformed their pre-season expectations last term and that will have increased the belief amongst supporters that they can at least replicate those achievements during 2023/24.
That may be easier said than done, however, as Newcastle will now have the added but welcome distraction of Champions League football to negotiate, which may test their relatively small squad during the opening months of the campaign.
Howe has moved to strengthen his options during the off-season, with the notable arrival of Italy international midfielder Sandro Tonali from AC Milan, while the acquisition of Leicester winger Harvey Barnes will also boost their resources.
Newcastle's success last season was built on a strong defence - no side conceded fewer goals in the top flight last term - while the goals at the other end of the table started to flow towards the end of the campaign, with club-record signing Isak finding his form and fitness as he developed a strong understanding with fellow front man Callum Wilson.
Qualifying for Europe will be the minimum aim for Newcastle again this season, but supporters may accept a drop off in results in the Premier League, if the club can enjoy a successful run in Europe and perform well in the domestic cups, as lifting their first major domestic trophy since 1955 will be a top priority.
When former Bournemouth boss Howe was appointed as Steve Bruce's successor at St James' Park in November 2021, some Newcastle supporters were perhaps underwhelmed.
However, the 45-year-old has masterminded an upturn in fortunes that even the most optimistic Magpies fan could not have expected, as he took over the club when they were sat 19th in the standings, five points adrift of safety.
Survival was Howe's main goal for the 2021/22 campaign, but he ended up achieving that feat with ease, guiding the Magpies to an 11th-place finish, a full 14 points clear of the drop zone.
Those performances certainly raised hopes for last season, but once again Howe and his side completely outperformed expectations to finish fourth and it is fair to say his stock could hardly be higher.
Howe is of course no stranger to building sustained success at a club, as across two spells in charge of Bournemouth he guided the Cherries from League Two to the Premier League, establishing them as a top-flight club until their relegation during his final season in charge,
If Howe can continue to build a similar platform at Newcastle then he could be the man to lead the Magpies to new heights over the coming years.
The first big-money marquee signing of the Howe era at Newcastle was Brazil international midfielder Bruno Guimaraes, who joined for a reported £40m from French club Lyon in January 2022.
Guimaraes immediately endeared himself to the Newcastle supporters by scoring on his full debut against Southampton, one of five goals he struck that season.
The 25-year-old is a firm fans' favourite on Tyneside and although his performance levels arguably dropped slightly towards the end of last season, there is plenty of excitement around regarding the partnership he could form with summer recruit Tonali in the middle of the park.
Unlike Guimaraes the year before, winger Anthony Gordon wasn't quite able to hit the ground running after joining Newcastle for a reported £45m from Everton in January, as he started just four Premier League games over the second half of the season for his new club.
However, at just 22, Gordon perhaps needed time to settle into his new surroundings and the signs are that he could now be ready to have a major impact at St James' Park.
Gordon certainly showcased his talents at this summer's European Under-21 Championship, as he played a starring role in England's victorious campaign, with his individual efforts being rewarded with the Player of the Tournament accolade.
A player who Newcastle are surely still to see the best of, Gordon could be in for a defining campaign which may even end in him representing England at next summer's Euros finals in Germany.
(4-3-3): Pope, Trippier (c), Schar, Botman, Burn, Tonali, Guimaraes, Joelinton, Gordon, Isak, Wilson.
Newcastle United's opening six Premier League fixtures are as follows:
|2022/23||4th (Premier League)|
|2021/22||11th (Premier League)|
|2020/21||12th (Premier League)|
|2019/20||13th (Premier League)|
|2018/19||13th (Premier League)|