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Opinion

Steve Bruce and his final third conundrum

1 year ago
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After losing at Stamford Bridge on Saturday, Steve Bruce reflected on where Newcastle United are at, now we are a quarter of the way through the season.

The issues and challenges that face the head coach and his players.

Bruce declaring that the ‘big thing’ Newcastle need to do is ‘find some goals’…

On what we have seen so far, those search parties should be sent out immediately!

The lack of goals wasn’t the only ‘big thing’ Steve Bruce mentioned, he also used it when saying that ‘where we have to improve is in the final third’ in matches.

There is no question that the sharp end is where Newcastle United are struggling the most but when it comes to the ‘final third’ what is the biggest issue/problem?

I would suggest that whilst what is happening in the final third is clearly not good enough this season, a far bigger problem is actually not even reaching the final third.

This season, Newcastle have averaged under 32% possession, average only 20 passes played into the opposition penalty area each game, whilst on average Newcastle players only have a combined 12 touches of the ball each match in the penalty area.

The fact is, Newcastle are playing far too deep and don’t commit enough players forward often enough, so the forward players have minimal sight of the ball in dangerous positions.

A report this week showed that Joelinton was Newcastle’s main playmaker, he is having to drop so deep to get any touches of the ball and is the player who is most often involved in moves that end up with a shot from any of our players, including himself, whereas in almost every other Premier League team it is a midfielder who is the ‘playmaker’, in terms of involved in most passing moves that end in a shot.

So yes, Steve Bruce is correct in saying Newcastle’s players have to make better choices in the final third BUT a bigger issue for him to sort is ensuring the team is set up so that the ball is in the final third, especially the opposition box, more often.

Steve Bruce on Saturday after losing 1-0 at Chelsea:

“We had some unbelievable opportunities in the first half and took the wrong option, the wrong pass.

“Overall, especially first half, we were excellent.

“The way we played I thought we gave as good as we got.

“The big thing where we have to improve is in the last third.

“The big thing is we have to find some goals.”

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