The tragedy isn’t the Steve Bruce boring negative football, the tragedy is that it is so unnecessary
As we all remember, Steve Bruce arrived in July promising big changes at Newcastle United.
The idea of not competing in cup competitions was going to be resigned to history.
From now on, the new Head Coach promised that the cup competitions would be given the same level of intensity, with no longer weakened teams to be sent out.
The following month Steve Bruce sent out almost an entire second team and NUFC were knocked out at the first attempt in the League Cup.
As our diminished remaining French contingent might say..Vive La Change!
More importantly, five months ago Steve Bruce promised Newcastle fans that from this day forth, NUFC would always be playing on the ‘front foot’, no more negative defensive tactics.
Since that July 2019 declaration from Steve Bruce, we have seen nothing but negative defensive tactics. With the possible exception of the West Ham away game, where a feeble second choice Hammers keeper helped NUFC quickly go two up and actually play some decent attacking football, that is until we went 3-0 up with 40 minutes to go, Steve Bruce then calling the retreat and almost inviting disaster. West Ham allowed to then dominate and almost grab a point.
Newcastle United have been easily the worst team to watch this season, opposing fans saying after pretty much every match how they wouldn’t fancy watching that every week.
The stats back this perception up, whether it is possession, chances created, shots on target, expected goals, Newcastle at the bottom.
It is actually quite remarkable that NUFC have managed to score 17 goals in their 17 matches, a higher total somehow than two other PL clubs. However, just like the points total, the number of goals scored has been massively down to luck.
Before registering not a single shot on target against Burnley, Newcastle United picked up seven points in the previous three matches, due to scoring six goals with more or less their only six chances over the course of those three matches.
The 22 points has been used to paper over cracks and allow ‘experts’ to conclude (wrongly) that Newcastle are actually playing pretty well and playing good football. We are not. Obviously the expert opinions are based on league position and points, as well as seeing brief highlights of certain games and some of the goals.
For my money, Steve Bruce has done a terrific job of dumbing down any expectations.
He has sold the idea that if Newcastle stay up it will be some kind of miracle and that the team are totally incapable of playing any other style than the rubbish we have seen this season.
These two things are completely untrue.
The tragedy isn’t the Steve Bruce boring negative football.
The tragedy is that it is so unnecessary.
Newcastle United now have a squad that comes around halfway up the Premier League table when it comes to how much it cost to put together. We are not total paupers.
When you also factor in that Dummett and the Longstaff brothers cost nothing and that Rafa recruited Dubravka, Schar and Hayden for only £12m for the trio, there should be loads of confidence in this squad to hold their own.
I am not saying that by ditching the over the top negative tactics that Newcastle would have definitely had more than the current 22 points total BUT I think they would have had at least that many if playing more attacking football AND they would have deserved them (the points).
Only a fool would claim that Newcastle have deserved the 22 points this season based on the football we have seen, it has been a total fluke, with luck massively on our side, as opposition teams waste loads of clear chances and NUFC score a ridiculously high proportion of chances created.
However, as I say above, the thing is this is so unnecessary.
Newcastle have the players in the squad to play far better football than this.
I think Almiron, Saint-Maximin and especially Joelinton have been done a massive disservice by Steve Bruce.
Playing a more attacking style I think we would have seen this trio grow in confidence and score and assist regularly. Instead they act as extra defenders most of the time.
I can’t believe any of them could have imagined that they would be playing in such a dreadful negative formation when they signed.
The thing is as well, the likes of Sean Longstaff and Isaac Hayden are totally wasted with these current tactics.
Their strengths are to use their pace, strength, physicality, tackling, mobility in an attacking formation. They are central midfielders who aren’t going to be playmakers, instead they are good at keeping the ball moving further up the pitch, setting up the flair players to do their stuff in dangerous positions, as well as being there to cover them as the flair players and attacking wing-backs try to create and score goals.
As it is, all that has happened under Steve Bruce is that every player has become a defender.
The attacking threat of players such as Almiron, Joelinton and even ASM to a massive degree, has been sucked out of them.
I watched yesterday as the bottom two (Watford and Norwich) created chance after chance away at the top two (Liverpool and Leicester) and were unlucky to not both come away with wins.
You are really kidding yourself if you think our points total is proof that Newcastle have been better than even those bottom two clubs, except when it comes to the quality of the goalkeeper and defence.
There are such small margins in so many PL matches and we have used up a season’s worth of luck already.
Plus, it is worth remembering that Newcastle have still only won six of their 18 matches this season.
Newcastle United need to urgently give the quality that is there in the squad the freedom to go and create and score goals in these next five months or so.
Nothing wrong with enjoying a bit of luck but you have to recognise it as such and the need to change if you don’t want to be quickly dragged down when that luck runs out.
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