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Opinion

Nothing wrong with team selection, it was what Steve Bruce said

3 weeks ago
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Steve Bruce has now been in charge of the Newcastle team for over six weeks now.

The NUFC Head Coach will now be a lot wiser about what he has taken in.

Whilst Newcastle fans also have a lot more to go on, seeing what Steve Bruce has and hasn’t done since mid-July.

One thing he has done, is talk a lot. Too much in my opinion.

It wasn’t just reservations about his ability to manage the team, I also had concerns that Bruce would be too willing a mouthpiece for Mike Ashley.

Steve Bruce has repeatedly said that his Newcastle team will be playing on the front foot, an obvious Ashley-pleasing reference in terms of it being a put down as to what has supposedly gone before (Rafa Benitez). The media lapped it up, no more (supposedly) boring  defensive formations/tactics/selections, here was a (supposed) justified reason as to why Mike Ashley had appointed Bruce.

I bit of a shame that the media never ever track back and hold people to account. It was the same when Pardew, Carver and McClaren would just say anything and everything, most of it nonsense. Never challenged on it later by journalists.

The reality of Steve Bruce’s ‘playing on the front foot’ is possession stats (courtesy of BBC Sport) of 38% (v Arsenal), 37% (v Norwich), 20% (v Spurs) and 32% (v Leicester). That averages out at 32% per game.

Reality is that Newcastle under the new Head Coach have been defending even more so and even deeper, than was the case under Rafa Benitez. NUFC have scored three goals and I reckon no more than a couple of other serious shots of any difficulty for the opposition keeper in over six hours of football so far this season. Averaging a goal every two hours and a serious effort on target maybe every hour.

When taking the Newcastle job in July, Steve Bruce said ‘I’ve put my neck on the line immediately’, saying he wouldn’t prioritise the Premier League over the cup competitions, he would throw everything at the cups (see below). Another crowd-pleaser (for Ashley and the media), Rafa Benitez having made it clear that without proper funding of the squad, Newcastle weren’t capable of properly attacking the cups.

Last night was always going to be a pivotal one for Steve Bruce, his first selection of a cup team.

I don’t have a problem with the players who ended up facing Leicester BUT I do have a problem with the nonsense Steve Bruce has said.

Against Leicester, only Krafth, Schar, Hayden and Ritchie survived from the team that started against Spurs.

However, another four of the Spurs starters were on the bench – Dubravka, Lascelles, Dummett and Sean Longstaff.

The bottom line is that if Newcastle had been facing Leicester last night in the Premier League, that quartet would all have played.

The same with Joelinton and Almiron, neither were in last night’s squad but if a Premier League game they’d have been included.

Steve Bruce can blame injuries in some cases but he has always known that he wouldn’t/couldn’t play the Brazilian last night.

The chaotic and shoddy running of the club ensured that in the transfer window.

Steve Bruce and Mike Ashley knew that extra goalscorers were desperately needed and they knew that even Dwight Gayle would me missing well into the new season.

Yet instead of bringing in another striker, one that could actually play…such as last night, Ashley instead made the PR move of signing Andy Carroll for easy headlines. Andy Carroll who was injured/unfit and would take at least well into September before he will be available, if ever. Then even if he gets fit, his involvement will be minimal at best, his injury/fitness record in recent years tells you that.

If Carroll was going to come in, then they desperately needed another one as well, who could actually play and hopefully score goals, including in the cup competitions.

Steve Bruce is talking the talk but saying things that he knows he can’t deliver.

Does anybody really believe it will be any different when the FA Cup comes around in January.

Bruce couldn’t play key players such as Dubravka, Lascelles, Almiron and Joelinton against Leicester because the squad is so weak.

The same will be the case in January.

Matt Ritchie’s nasty ankle injury last night sums up the situation, one bad/accidental challenge and he is out for who knows how long – that could/would have been Dubravka, Joelinton, Almiron etc. Out of the Premier League relegation battle for who knows how long…

Yes Newcastle have had bad luck to an extent but even more so it has been bad judgement.

Not properly strengthening the squad in the summer and then added to that, Steve Bruce stupidly playing Allan Saint-Maximin on Sunday when he had only came back into full training on Friday due to a hamstring problem. Lasting 17 minutes and knackered even worse now.

Anyway, at least we can concentrate on the league now…

Steve Bruce in July after getting the Newcastle job:

“I’ve put my neck on the line immediately (saying he won’t prioritise Premier League over the cups)!

“I’m not really bothered what’s been done before. I can understand the philosophy of it but my perception of it all changed at Hull.

“We were 2-0 up in the (2014) FA Cup final against Arsenal.

“We nearly won it.

“My perception of it changed too. Hull supporters had the best day out in their lives.

“That’s got to be a route and that’s what we’ll try and do.

“I realised it at Hull.

“We got to the FA Cup final and if you ask the supporters what their biggest day was, getting into the Premier League or getting to the FA Cup final and they’d say the final.

“Surely as a club we can win five games?

Can we win a cup tie, can we do well in the League Cup or the FA Cup?

“That’s got to be an aim. It’s not just about staying in the division and being happy with that – that would be wrong.”

Mike Ashley PR statement on The Mail -26 July 2019:

‘I expected the negative reaction to Rafa leaving, I thought it would be very bad. But I was shocked by the reaction to Steve. He doesn’t deserve it. He’s one of their own. I don’t think the fans quite realise what they’ve got because I’m hoping he’s the one.

‘There’s been some hurtful stuff, that he was our 11th choice. Actually, we had a short-list of three and Steve was one of them. His only worry was how soon he could start. I’m not a football expert, I don’t get involved, I’ve got a car but I’m not the driver.

And now I’ve got a manager saying, “Let me get on with it. Just let me get on with it – I won’t let you down”. I’m thinking, “I’m definitely having that”. He gets it.

He comes in: “The cups? Yeah, we go for them”.

‘Certain things I haven’t got right. I used to think our Premier League finish was more important. But where can we realistically go with this top six? The cups are the best of it. And it’s great to have a conversation with someone who is so passionate for Newcastle United. I know I’m an eternal optimist but with what we’ve got now at the football club, something might be possible.

‘And you can’t believe how that would make me feel.

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