Steve Bruce embraces ‘Fail to Plan – Plan to Fail’ as he is overwhelmed and undermined
Kevin Keegan had a plan.
When taking over in 1992 as Newcastle boss, KK had this bizarre idea. Put together the best quality players he could attract in each position, then send them out to score goals and win football matches.
Then each subsequent season try and add even better quality players to keep raising the bar, score more goals and win more games.
It is a myth to say Keegan ignored the defensive side of the game and/or tactics, he had Derek Fazackerley at his side to help work on those aspects. Though KK set the overall style of play.
Sir Bobby Robson was similar, his method was also to put together a team of players that could/would score a lot of goals, win a lot of games.
In the eight Premier League seasons they started at NUFC (ignoring 2004/05 when Sir Bobby only got four games before the sack) they managed seven top six finishes between them – second twice, third twice, fourth, fifth and sixth.
With Rafa Benitez, nobody would claim his plan was ‘score a lot of goals, win a lot of games’ once he got Newcastle United back into the Premier League.
However, he did have a plan. One that was to a massive part built around not having been allowed a realistic budget, or indeed any budget in summer 2018, when instead of a net spend, Mike Ashley insisted on a £20m+ transfer profit.
Premier League finishes of 10th and 13th, both times ending the season 11 points clear of relegation, were built on putting together a tight and disciplined defensive unit, bringing in very good defenders despite the relatively small amount of money available – the likes of Dubravka, Lejeune, Schar and Fernandez.
In each of the two PL seasons, only two clubs outside the top four conceded less goals than Newcastle United.
On the attacking side of things, Rafa relied on Joselu to help out after a £5m move from Stoke reserves in 2017/18, then loan signing Rondon the main man the following season.
Only in the final months of 2018/19 was Rafa Benitez able to really be any more expansive, due to at last been allowed to add a player with pace AND quality up front, with the arrival of Miguel Almiron. This allowed Newcastle to go on the attack and in the final 16 games of last season, NUFC had the fifth best points total (27) and the fifth best goals total (26) in those final four months of the campaign.
Moving forward…Is maybe the best summary of this Newcastle United season: Fail to plan – Plan to fail? Or is there a cunning plan hidden away there?
Things never really added up in the summer (2019).
Steve Bruce said that from now on Newcastle United would be going on the ‘front foot’, playing attacking football.
To achieve this, the three attacking signings were Andy Carroll who had averaged five Premier League goals per season since leaving NUFC, Allan Saint-Maximin who’d averaged four league goals in each of the last three seasons, whilst Joelinton’s best league goals return so far was eight in a season in Austria.
It was a bit like a jigsaw puzzle where somebody has put the pieces in the wrong box, you look at the picture on the box but it bears no relation to what is inside it.
Steve Bruce still insisted it was ‘front foot’ all the way, at least that is until the season started.
After a weak home defeat to an Arsenal side missing most of their better players, then a humiliation at Norwich who could have won by five or six, Steve Bruce instantly ripped up his plan of playing three central midfielders to give Jonjo Shelvey a free role.
Then the further the season as progressed, Steve Bruce has increasingly blamed Rafa Benitez as the reason why his team have to just sit back and defend, with seemingly no plan on scoring goals apart from giving the ball to ASM.
Would there have been a workable plan if Steve Bruce had been allowed to choose which players were signed?
We will never know because those weren’t the terms on which he was hired.
Newcastle should, SHOULD, see out this season keeping their place in the Premier league BUT in the summer, what will the cunning plan be?
Or indeed, will there be any plan?
More likely we will see a succession of decisions made that bear little relation to each other, where the dots can’t be connected.
This is the world of Mike Ashley running Newcastle United.
He has got his club back by getting rid of Rafa Benitez but when will the fans get their club back?
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