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Opinion

Steve Bruce shamelessly blames Rafa Benitez inheritance for his own shortcomings

11 months ago
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In the shocking performance against Brighton, a number of players were forced to go over to Steve Bruce and tell him his tactics weren’t working.

In that first half, Newcastle hardly had a kick of the ball and the visitors were cutting through their lines at will.

Even in his very first game, Steve Bruce created disorganised chaos when making his subs, players not having a clue where they were supposed to be on the pitch and the disarray definitely contributing to Arsenal’s winner.

After an embarrassing display and defeat the next week at Norwich, Michael Chopra said that senior Newcastle players had told him that Steve Bruce’s training sessions left them unsure of what they were supposed to be doing.

Ahead of the Leicester game, Steve Bruce was asked about his tactics seemingly confusing the Newcastle players and he wasn’t impressed with the question, declaring ‘I think that is the biggest insult I can have.’

When defending his own confusing tactics and the effect they have had on the players, especially when trying to change them, Steve Bruce attempted to use the example of last Saturday’s opposing manager: ‘Graham Potter changed Brighton’s formation four times during last week’s game.’

Surely this is exactly the point, as any changes Potter made during the game were beneficial, only his team’s poor finishing meant they didn’t win comfortably after dominating the game.

Steve Bruce states: ‘Last week, we changed. We were better in the second half, that’s for sure.’ Well they couldn’t have been any worse than in that first half and I think the right phrase would be they were less worse in the second half. Indeed, the only positivity wasn’t down to any Bruce tactics, just Allan Saint-Maximin coming on and running with the ball in the final quarter of an hour.

Rather shamelessly, Steve Bruce has tried to lay the blame on Rafa Benitez for his own shortcomings.

Bruce saying: ‘Graham (Potter) has radically changed Brighton’s style and I want to change my team’s too, but I won’t do it radically…Not having the ball is something the players have become accustomed to. They have been used to playing in a certain way but I would hope we can slowly change it.’

Steve Bruce blaming this season’s all out defensive style and minimal attacking on players stuck in a Rafa Benitez mindset, it is laughable. Time for Bruce to take responsibility but he has always been somebody keen to make excuses at clubs in the past.

It appears clear he goes into press conferences/interviews with a PR briefing beforehand, previously he has blamed the Rafa inheritance for the current lack of goals and quoted statistics on that, this time he was armed with the information that last season Newcastle only had more average possession than Cardiff, NUFC 42.9% compared to the Welsh side’s 39.1%.

38% Arsenal

37% Norwich

20% Spurs

32% Leicester

49% Watford

24% Liverpool

29% Brighton

Steve Bruce’s overall average is 31.2% possession, far far worse than Rafa’s stats.

The thing is as well, whilst under Rafa the team often defended deep, when they did counter-attack they regularly played some very good football. Plus, once Benitez had the tools he played very differently, from Almiron’s debut Newcastle scored 21 goals in 13 games after only 21 in the first 25 PL matches.

Steve Bruce raved about this summer’s transfer business, even ridiculously claiming he’d been allowed to spend more in a week than in his whole previous career, even though the actual truth is that he spent far more even just in his time at Sunderland a decade ago. Just as ridiculous he claimed that he had actually chosen which players had signed.

He has made his bed and can’t now backtrack, he said Mike Ashley had been great in his backing, couldn’t have done more, so now it can only be his (Steve Bruce’s) fault if he doesn’t get results.

It is also patently untrue when Steve Bruce says that he didn’t change anything instantly.

He did from the very first match. Bruce got rid of Rafa’s 5-2-2-1 (or 3-4-3) with two players supporting the main striker. Instead changing to a disastrous 5-3-1-1 so he could accommodate Shelvey as one of three central midfielders. It meant Shelvey didn’t have to do the work he doesn’t like doing but it left Joelinton totally isolated and Almiron trying to cover the whole area between the centre-forward and the rest of the team. Even Steve Bruce was forced to abandon his daft idea after only two games, returned to Rafa’s formation and beat Tottenham the next week!

Steve Bruce has to start looking at himself, not shamelessly trying to blame others for what’s happening at Newcastle.

Steve Bruce asked about his tactics seemingly confusing the Newcastle players:

“I think that is the biggest insult I can have.

“Graham Potter changed Brighton’s formation four times during last week’s game.

“Graham has radically changed Brighton’s style and I want to change my team’s too, but I won’t do it radically, it will be gradual, it won’t be overnight.

“Last season Newcastle were second bottom of the Premier League in the respect of keeping possession.

“If we are to improve, it’s something we have to get better at, we have to keep the ball better.

“The biggest disappointment for me was that when we did turn it over (against Brighton), we gave the ball away too cheaply.

“Last year we were second bottom in that respect so it is something that I can’t change overnight but we have to improve with the ball and keep it better and that was my biggest disappointment last week, the turnover of possession. Something like 73% pass completion is not good enough for the Premier League.

“It is something they’ve become accustomed to.

“In my opinion, if we are going to improve we have got to improve with possession of the ball. Simple.

“Yes, we can be difficult to beat. Yes, difficult to play against. I haven’t tried to change the philosophy of that. To play three at the back, five at the back, play on the counter-attack, that has been the way we’ve gone around it the last five or six games.

“Slowly but surely, when I think the time’s right, we’ll change but it won’t just be overnight.

“If we’re going to improve, we have to take care of the ball better and have more possession than certainly we had last week.

“I would hope we can change it. Last week, we changed. We were better in the second half, that’s for sure.”

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