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Opinion

Can my Newcastle team v Everton heal the damage and mistakes of Old Trafford?

10 months ago
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Put simply, on Boxing Day, Head Coach Steve Bruce got his tactics wrong and not for the first time.

I raised an eyebrow when I saw that both Longstaff brothers were paired in the middle of the park.

No defensive reliability of Isaac Hayden? No passing ability of a resurgent Jonjo Shelvey? To start with two of the least experienced midfielders at Premier League level away at Old Trafford is either mighty brave, or mighty stupid.

Further eyebrows were raised when I saw the forward line, or rather the lack of it.

Why go with Dwight Gayle AND Joelinton? One is a Championship striker and the other isn’t even a striker.

I figured that Andy Carroll had picked up a knock so I shrugged that one off…but only until I came to the substitutes. There he was on the bench, so why not start the only recognised top level striker we have?

Whilst I’ve talked about Dwight Gayle’s limitations in the past, pairing him with Carroll must surely be our most effective forward line, that is unless Bruce is ‘obliged’ to always play Joelinton by you know who, no matter what the evidence on the pitch says.

The further worry for me on Thursday was Bruce’s continued lack of game management. He seems to fail to see when a game is turning or running away from him. After our bright start we switched off alarmingly after Matty Longstaff’s goal. The game had changed and Manchester United’s tails were up.

Their first goal was a warning, the second a chance to rethink and regroup, the third was as good as game over and this was all before half time and then the killer fourth only six minutes after the break

Manchester United are not a good side, they are bang average. Yet they steamrollered us.

Let’s not kid ourselves, a decent Manchester United side would have gone on and got six or seven. For Steve Bruce to say that “For half an hour, we gave as good as we’ve got” is astonishingly short-sighted. To follow that comment up with “We managed to keep it respectable, and with that, I thought they (his players) showed a bit of resilience in the last half hour” is downright outrageous.

The trouble with Bruce’s Newcastle is that it is all fits and starts, moments here, moments there. Once again, we were sub 30% possession (26%) and that’s commonplace this season. We registered only two shots on target. If the opposition scores four, with those stats we’re needing snookers.

And yet, as the tide turned, no sign of the big hitters from the bench. Shelvey stayed on the sidelines, Carroll remained untested and Hayden unmoved. The ones who came on (at 4-1 down by the way) were Christian Atsu, DeAndre Yedlin and Emile Krafth, that’s two full backs and a winger, in a game you’re chasing?

When I saw the team announced I stated that Carroll and Gayle were the way to go, with Bruce then having the option to sub one or both of them depending on how the game was going. At half-time, I’d have hooked Joelinton and gone with my plan.

Now before anyone comments, yes I think Joelinton did ok. Yes, we went a goal up (once again not from a striker I may add) but the second they took the lead, the writing was on the wall. Bruce had no idea how to change it, no apparent influence or Plan B, something which is becoming worryingly familiar.

Or, was the plan to merely save the trio who didn’t get on (Hayden, Carroll and Shelvey) for Everton at St James Park on Saturday?

If that WAS the plan then you’d have a little bit of understanding, however, I’m not convinced Bruce has that much foresight. Thursday was indeed a ‘free hit’ which I was expecting nowt from, but the way we simply capitulated, hoisted the white flag and chucked the game away, was unacceptable. ‘Respectable’ it certainly wasn’t, Steve.

Time will tell but I’d replace one of the Longstaffs with Hayden, drop Almiron and put Shelvey behind the two in midfield. Stick Gayle and Carroll up top and start wing-backs Yedlin and Willems.

My Newcastle team v Everton:

We’ve played an average Manchester United side and been well beaten, we will face a good Everton side on Saturday that has been resurgent under the guidance of old boy ‘Big Dunc’ Ferguson and have gone and gotten Carlo Ancelotti in. Now that’s an appointment that would have been respected if it had been made last summer at our club instead of Steve Bruce.

Losing away at Old Trafford is nothing new and if Bruce has kept his players in reserve in the idea of going out and beating Everton, then that will at least have some logic. But you can’t just target games and expect that to be your grand masterplan.

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