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The last Newcastle United Manager to have 22 points from first 16 games was sacked 32 days later

11 months ago
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Newcastle United Manager (Head Coach…) Steve Bruce watched on as hit team temporarily went top half of the Premier League.

The 2-1 win over Southampton put Newcastle tenth in the table on Sunday, though that slipped to eleventh when Arsenal won 3-1 at West Ham on Monday night.

A run of four wins in the past six games putting NUFC in a far healthier position.

For those journalists and newspapers close to the Mike Ashley regime, particularly the Chronicle, this eleventh place after 16 games has been heralded as a near miracle.

Happy to go along with the ‘this proves Steve Bruce is better than Rafa Benitez’ storyline that some are keen to spread, based purely on comparisons with the results from early last season in the first 16 PL matches.

Totally ignoring the fact that in the next 22 games, Rafa Benitez’ NUFC had the eighth best form in the Premier League.

Whilst in the final 16 PL matches of last season, Rafa actually had the fifth best form in the top tier.

Anyway, I digress, this one isn’t about Rafa Benitez.

Whilst so much of the media are happy to just talk about the points, many Newcastle fans are keen to look at the whole package.

Yes Newcastle have won six of their 17 matches this season (along with seven defeats and four draws) but what about the actual football matches, how have Newcastle actually played?

Well, the goalkeeper has been exceptional and the centre-backs very good, but beyond that, you have to say that the football has been pretty terrible overall. Steve Bruce using over the top negative tactics, even at home against teams in the relegation zone such as Watford and Southampton, as well as away at relegation favourites such as Norwich.

Is there really any substance there, in terms of if what is repeated at the moment with these players and these tactics, will bring  ongoing success?

Very unlikely. Just setting out to defend and defend so deep every match and gift control to the opposition, isn’t a great master plan. These seven points in the last three games have seen a remarkable six goals scored from pretty much the only six chances created. That is not sustainable.

Some fans react with ‘well do you want to win or be entertained’…?

I didn’t know it had to be a choice between the two things and just because you win six of 17 matches with this approach, is no kind of proof of that ‘success’ being repeated in the next 17 games.

The team are committed and we know that since promotion we have a very good set of central defenders and an excellent goalkeeper since February 2018 but apart from that what great play has there been?

Allan Saint-Maximin has been a spark of hope but now looks knackered after Steve Bruce played him on Sunday whilst carrying an injury, we have Jonjo Shelvey suddenly finding the desire to get into scoring positions and grabbing a few goals, Andy Carroll able to contribute in parts of games before his next injury comes along, with then defenders popping up in unlikely circumstances to score the majority of the goals.

Steve Bruce hasn’t reinvented the wheel, only Watford and Palace have scored less goals than Newcastle’s 17 in 16 PL games and only one club above NUFC in the league have conceded more than the Magpies’ 23.

Yes, as I say above, we have won six games of the 17 (all competitions) played but it has been a massive struggle.

I make it that Newcastle deserved to win the West Ham match on balance of play but not any of the other five they have won. Not saying  Newcastle deserved to lose all of those matches but on balance of play, it was draws at best against the likes of Southampton, Bournemouth, Spurs, Man Utd and Sheffield United.

Any of you who have played football at any level, will know that this is what can happen, you have runs of matches where you play badly/averagely but the luck is with you and you score with pretty much every chance, whilst on the other hand you can play really well but things just don’t go your way with inspired opposition goalkeepers etc.

Whilst Newcastle still win regularly then of course we are all happy, as has been the case these past weeks, BUT there is nothing really behind it. If/when these tactics and players turn to defeats, there will be no sensible person who is surprised.

Only by playing better less negative football and creating more chances, can Newcastle continue this run of recent results that have given a temporary boost.

As evidence, I call the previous Newcastle United Manager who had exactly 22 points in his first 16 Premier League matches at the start of a season with NUFC.

On 8 December 2019, Steve Bruce saw his team get to 22 points from 16 Premier League matches, with six wins, four draws and six defeats.

Exactly 12 years earlier…

On 8 December 2007, Sam Allardyce saw his team get to 22 points from 16 Premier League matches, with six wins, four draws and six defeats.

If you go back then, you would also have had journalists towing the party line, saying how (relatively) great everything was, look at the points.

However, by that point, Newcastle fans had cottoned on to the fact that life under Fat Sm was abysmal. That the team had been massively riding their luck in getting that points total after 16 matches. There was also a definite feeling that the horrendous boring  negative football wasn’t necessary, that the group of players could play far better and thrive if played in a more attacking formation.

Only 32 days after Sam Allardyce had got to 22 points from 16 PL games, he was thankfully sacked. One of the few really positive decisions Mike Ashley has ever made.

In his final 12 games as the luck ran out and the overly defensive tactics hamstrung the team, Newcastle only had two wins, with even defeats and three draws and a lot of terrible negative football that was no longer winning football.

I am not saying that Steve Bruce could/should be sacked in early January but he does need to change tactics before the luck runs out.

These matches have so far served a purpose and by hook or by crook put the points on the board but nobody stays so lucky for much longer.

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