Newcastle (United Kingdom) (AFP) – Newcastle manager Eddie Howe said his side’s strength in depth was exposed after Wednesday’s group stage exit from the Champions League.
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A 2-1 defeat by AC Milan sealed the Magpies’ fate as they missed out on qualifying for next year’s Europa League.
Newcastle’s first experience in Europe’s elite club competition for 20 years saw them beat Paris Saint-Germain 4-1 and draw 0-0 at Milan.
But they picked up just one point from their last four games in a devilishly difficult Group F as the injury crisis took its toll.
Victory at St James’ Park was not enough for last season’s semi-finalists Milan to advance to the last 16 as PSG and Borussia Dortmund reached the knockout stages.
Backed by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, Newcastle did not leave as much as expected in the summer transfer window.
And Howe said having depth was a lesson learned from a bruising campaign.
„The value of the team, that’s what exposed us,” Howe told TNT Sports.
„We didn’t have the ability to use the squad we built and that was a big disappointment for us.
„We played almost with one hand behind our back and were very limited, and that didn’t help our situation.”
A series of injuries and Sandro Donali’s 10-month ban for racing offenses forced Howe to name the same 10 outfield players for each of Newcastle’s previous five games in all competitions.
He made just one change to his starting line-up against Milan, but had to withdraw two of his star players this season, Kieran Trippier and Anthony Gordon, as they tired after the break.
Jolinton had put Newcastle ahead in the first half, but goals from Raphael Leo and Samuel Chukwues condemned Howe’s men to a third successive defeat.
„We’ve got a really stretched squad, those players have gone back and forth and I couldn’t be more proud of what they’ve given me physically and mentally,” Howe said.
„We left everything on the pitch. I don’t think we can have any regrets, but of course we will learn from it and absorb everything to take it into our Premier League form.”
Fatigue was also a factor in Newcastle’s late form in the Premier League.
They sit seventh in the table, seven points adrift of the top four.
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