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Opinion

Clueless Steve Bruce helps brings on opening day defeat – Newcastle 0 Arsenal 1

3 months ago
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For those who were worried about Steve Bruce replacing Rafa Benitez, their fears looked very much justified on Sunday afternoon.

The new Head Coach had promised a much more attacking entertaining style, instead we saw very limited enterprise against a significantly weakened Arsenal team.

Joelinton created a chance for himself and hit it straight at the Arsenal keeper from the edge of the box in the first half.

However, it was the final few minutes before we saw a second effort on target as substitute Allan Saint-Maximin also created an opening for himself but his effort from a similar distance was never beating Leno in the Arsenal goal.

A poor game and performance saw things really fall apart once Steve Bruce made changes.

His substitutions causing chaos as nobody looked to know what they were supposed to be doing.

Willems came on for Shelvey and started to play in centre midfield before he then was told/realised he should be on the left, out he went and almost immediately a poor ball out of defence was compounded as he was flat-footed and waiting for the ball.

Ainsley Maitland-Niles taking advantage of the NUFC self-inflicted chaos and went down the right before supplying the unmarked Aubameyang for a confident finish.

Things got even worse as Saint-Maximin replaced Sean Longstaff, it all becoming a bit of a free for all, as the five or six players furthest up the pitch appeared to be just doing their own thing, as a clueless Steve Bruce watched on from the sidelines.

The thing is, it wasn’t all negative.

The likes of Joelinton, Almiron and Saint-Maximin all showed ability at times but without any plan or direction from the coaching team, any potential moves tended to fall apart.

Steve Bruce has talked a good game but for his and Mike Ashley’s critics, today perfectly summed up the folly of the owner forcing Rafa Benitez out of St James Park.

Considering how weak the Arsenal team were, I find it very hard to imagine Rafa Benitez would have lost this one and indeed, I strongly think he would have won the game, either with his team that came together in the second half of last season, or with the squad that Steve Bruce has been handed.

The parallels with Ashley bringing in lower league head coach Steve McClaren four years ago and the recruitment of Steve Bruce from the Championship, are there for all to see.

The pressure already building on Steve Bruce to prove the doubters wrong.

The journalists weren’t slow either to make their feelings  known on the Steve Bruce tactical chaos…

Aaron Stokes – The Star:

“That second 45 minutes reminds you what a difference Rafa made to this bang average squad.

“Unorganised, lacking in creativity, all at sea at the back.

“This is going to be like the McClaren season all over again.”

Craig Hope – The Mail:

“NUFC are so ragged here.

“Hard to tell who is playing where.”

Martin Hardy – Sunday Times:

“Confusion after Willems replaces Shelvey.

“Should have went straight to left wing back and swap with Ritchie. Doesn’t.

“Bruce anger on the bench ‘what the fu..’s happening?’

“Switch happens. Willems slow to read a Dummett pass. Arsenal break, ball to Aubameyang who dinks Dubravka 0-1.”

This weakened Arsenal team weren’t great either but they didn’t need to be as they comfortably saw out this win and controlled the second half, after a non-event of a first-half.

Stats from BBC Sport:

Newcastle 0  Arsenal 1 – Sunday 11 August 2pm

Goals:

Arsenal:

Aubameyang 58

Possession was Arsenal 62% Newcastle 38%

Total shots were Arsenal 8 Newcastle 9

Shots on target were Arsenal 2 Newcastle 2

Corners were Arsenal 3 Newcastle 5

Referee: Martin Atkinson

Newcastle team v Arsenal:

Dubravka, Schar, Lascelles, Dummett, Manquillo, Hayden, Shelvey (Willems 54), Longstaff (Saint-Maximin 67), Ritchie, Almiron, Joelinton

Unused Subs

Darlow, Clark, Fernandez, Krafth, Muto

Crowd: 47, 635 (3,200 Arsenal) – There looked to be approximately 43,000/44,000 actually inside St James Park as some season ticket holders joined today’s boycott.

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