NEWCASTLE UNITED head into their final home game of the season this evening safe in the knowledge that their Premier League status is already secured, but head coach Eddie Howe insists it would be wrong to suggest their remarkable turnaround in the second half of the campaign was down to money.

The Magpies host Arsenal at St James’ Park with a nine-point gap separating them from the relegation zone, a scenario that looked extremely unlikely when the year began with Howe’s side sitting in 19th position in the table.

They were still 19th when they drew with Watford in mid-January, but a 1-0 win at Leeds towards the end of that month sparked a run of ten wins from 14 matches that saw Newcastle surge away from the bottom three.

Their improvement came after almost £100m was invested during the January transfer window, with Kieran Trippier, Chris Wood, Bruno Guimaraes and Dan Burn arriving on permanent deals and Matt Targett signing on loan from Aston Villa, and all five players have played prominent roles in the second half of the campaign.

Howe has been delighted with the impact made by his January signings, but is adamant there has been more to Newcastle’s improvement than simply splashing the cash on new players.

“The easy thing is to talk about money,” said the Magpies boss. “But it is not what has got us here. January helped massively, and the money helped the team, and the players who came in made a huge difference. But I don’t think it was THE reason we did very well.

“I want the players to get the credit for their performances. The team has come together and fought for every point, and I don’t think money gives you that.”

The radically-changed atmosphere at St James’ Park has been another significant factor in Newcastle’s improvement, with the anger and apathy that characterised the Mike Ashley having been replaced by a fresh sense of passion and excitement.

The Wor Flags group have helped generate a vibrant pre-match atmosphere – another spectacular display is planned for tonight’s game with Arsenal – and that buoyancy has been apparent throughout Newcastle’s home matches. As a result, it is hardly a coincidence that the Magpies’ only home defeat since the start of the year came at the hands of title-chasing Liverpool.

“You look at the St James’ Park atmosphere now,” said Howe. “It’s a crowd in a place where they are proud of their team, and seeing a team giving everything to try to win a game.

“It has been great to see and experience. It has been electric, and the crowd has helped us get points. A key part of the future is to try to keep that dynamic as strong as it is now.”

Howe is excited by that future, which will hopefully see Newcastle returning to a position where they can challenge the likes of tonight’s opponents, Arsenal, for European qualification.

“The appetite is whetted by what we could be in the future,” he added. “There is lots of hard work to get there, to the levels we want to be, but without a doubt, we can get there. It will be amazing to see the club in a few years’ time because the potential is enormous.”

This evening’s game could see Kieran Trippier and Callum Wilson return to the starting line-up, with the pair both having been second-half susbtitutes in last weekend’s defeat at Manchester City.

Ryan Fraser is also back in the squad after returning to training this week, but Jonjo Shelvey and Joe Willock have both been ruled out of tonight’s game as well as next weekend’s final-day trip to Burnley.

Newcastle (probable, 4-3-3): Dubravka; Trippier, Schar, Burn, Targett; Guimaraes, Longstaff, Joelinton; Almiron, Wood, Saint-Maximin.