Eddie Howe concedes that Newcastle’s defeat at Brighton serves as a stark reminder that they cannot afford to let their Champions League campaign divert attention from the demanding Premier League.
The Magpies are making their return to the group stage of European football’s premier competition after a two-decade absence.
They have been drawn to face formidable opponents in AC Milan, Paris St Germain, and Borussia Dortmund.
However, the anticipation surrounding these upcoming clashes was quickly dampened by a string of three consecutive Premier League defeats, with 18-year-old Evan Ferguson’s hat-trick sealing a 3-1 victory for Brighton.
Manager Eddie Howe, whose team suffered a 2-1 home defeat against 10-man Liverpool the previous weekend and a 1-0 loss to Manchester City, acknowledges his responsibility for this recent downturn in form but emphasizes that he will approach the situation with measured perspective.
“It’s never been lost on me how difficult the Premier League is,” he said.
“I know how tough a league it is, it’s ruthless, so if you get your focus swayed, you’re going to have big problems – I don’t think our focus has been.
“We’ve tried to very much concentrate on our next match, that will always be our focus and we’re determined to be successful in the league this year and win as many games as possible.
“But we know the demands placed upon us are going to be extreme so this is a warning, I think, that we can’t be swayed and the Premier League is a very tough division.
“We’ve lost three in a row and we have to take responsibility for that. It’s important that I don’t over-react.”
Newcastle initially enjoyed the advantage in the early chances of the match on the south coast. However, they found themselves trailing after Evan Ferguson’s 27th-minute goal, a result of defensive lapses.
The Republic of Ireland striker then added to his tally with a remarkable long-range strike. He went on to achieve a rare feat by becoming only the fourth teenager in Premier League history to score a hat-trick, with one of his goals taking a deflection off Fabian Schar.
Manager Eddie Howe, who disclosed that midfielder Joe Willock would be sidelined for an additional six weeks due to a hamstring injury compounded by a fresh Achilles problem, is eager for a swift return to action as his team heads into a two-week international break.
“I’d like a game pretty quickly, if I could,” said Howe, whose team host Brentford on September 17.
“We have some great games to come and we’re looking forward to that challenge.
It's definitely not our best start! We know we have to improve and we will charge ourselves for that! For the best of @NUFC ever. Time now to regroup and come back focussed on our goals! We will be together in all situations 🖤🤍3️⃣9️⃣ pic.twitter.com/xG8BuQqjpi— Bruno Guimarães (@brunoog97) September 2, 2023
“I think the challenge to me is to lift everybody and keep our confidence levels because we are a very good team and we have to always have that in the back of our minds as we go into the next two weeks.
“The lads are very disappointed. Collectively we’ve got an outstanding group of individuals, great mentalities and we know what we’ve got to do.”
Ferguson’s first senior hat-trick, which was followed by Callum Wilson’s consolation, was the third in the Premier League on Saturday after trebles for Manchester City’s Erling Haaland and Tottenham forward Son Heung-min.
“It’s a good day,” he told Brighton’s website. “It’s an unbelievable feeling.
“It’s not bad company to be in; Haaland’s record last season (52 City goals in all competitions) and Son’s been doing it for a number of years, so it’s good company to be in.”
Enjoy Evan's hat-trick in all its glory! ⚽️⚽️⚽️ pic.twitter.com/sqaTqlmlAd— Brighton & Hove Albion (@OfficialBHAFC) September 2, 2023
Ahead of kick-off, the Seagulls paraded 20-year Spain forward Ansu Fati following his deadline-day loan switch from Barcelona.
“He’s going to be great for the squad, especially as competition,” said Ferguson.
“It’s tough up that area of the pitch and he’s going to be another one chucked in there and I reckon he’ll be very good for it.”