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Opinion

Steve Bruce says he has identified the big problem at Newcastle United under Rafa Benitez

4 weeks ago
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Steve Bruce says history tells you what has been the biggest problem at Newcastle recently.

The NUFC Head Coach saying the team didn’t score enough goals under Rafa Benitez.

Steve Bruce saying that it was a ‘struggle’ under the Spaniard.

Newcastle United certainly weren’t free scoring after promotion.

The 2017/18 season seeing 39 goals scored at a rate of 1.03 goals per game on average.

Whilst in 2018/19, there were 42 goals at an average of 1.11 goals per game.

However Rafa was always very open in explaining that with the players he had available, it was a case of: ‘The ‘short blanket’…if you cover your head, you have your feet cold, but if you cover your feet, you have your head cold.’

The Spaniard using that amusing analogy to say that he didn’t have a good enough team to attack as much as he would like, knowing that if his team committed too many players forward too often, they would get punished at the back.

The thing is, a top class manager like Rafa was able to successfully both seasons despite the severe lack of investment in the playing squad, due to his expertise in using what he had available in the best way. He had to accept his team didn’t have the players to be free scoring and so set the side up accordingly. In both Premier League seasons, only two teams outside the top four conceded less goals than Newcastle United, that is what ensured the Magpies’ safety and helped them do it with a little bit of style in the end, both seasons seeing early safety from relegation and an 11 point gap to the relegation zone on both occasions.

Amongst the many other worries about his unsuitability for the job, many Newcastle fans worried that Steve Bruce would end up simply conceding more goals and still failing to score many at the other end.

That has proved the case so far, with only four scored and eight conceded in the five games. Most worryingly, relegation rivals Watford and Norwich repeatedly cut through Newcastle and could have scored a lot more than they did.

Once again, Steve Bruce also appears to be intent on putting out a message that he has been an attacking style manager in the past, which the stats make quite clear isn’t the case.

Table shows each manager’s record in the Premier League ahead of the 2019/20 season:

As the table shows, Steve Bruce has a goals per game record that is even worse than his points record. If he has any strength at all it is in negatively keeping it tight at the back in favour of attacking, conceding less goals per game than the likes of McClaren, Kinnear, Pardew and most surprisingly, Sam Allardyce.

The annoying thing was of course that once Rafa Benitez was finally backed in the Premier League with a player costing more than £10m, Newcastle became a very decent attacking force. Before Miguel Almiron first played, Newcastle had scored only 21 goals in 25 PL games (an average of 0.84 goals per game), which then became 21 goals in the final 13 games (an average of 1.62 goals per game).

Rafa Benitez had made the breakthrough after finally getting some decent backing, with Rondon, Perez and Almiron, Newcastle at last had an attacking plan that was working, as well as a tight and disciplined defence.

Of course, Mike Ashley smashed that all up, forcing Rafa out of the club and making no effort to keep Rondon or Perez, last season’s two top goalscorers.

We wait to see what Steve Bruce delivers but it will be a major surprise if he delivers on goals, based on his record for over 20 years.

Steve Bruce speaking ahead of Brighton:

“Of course, the problem in the Premier League is, can we score enough?

“History tells you here that in the last couple of years (at Newcastle under Rafa Benitez) scoring is a struggle.

“We are not alone though.

“I think that is the hardest part and every team is defensively structured, that is why at the top end of the pitch you need something different.

“With Andy Carroll coming back and Dwight Gayle round the corner, it gives us a bigger threat, Allan Saint-Maximin as well.

“I hope that they can all stay fit for a long period because the more options you have in the forward area the better.”

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