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Opinion

Time for Steve Bruce to be bold – Loan signings allow formation change and go with this Newcastle team

6 months ago
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Steve Bruce has repeatedly said that he is hamstrung as to the type of Newcastle team and formation he can play.

However, is this really the truth now?

Rafa Benitez used to give a similar explanation for the way he often set his Newcastle team up, stating that until he could add extra pace and quality going forward, he had to go with a more defensive/solid look most of the time.

Then on 23 February 2019 Miguel Almiron started his first game.

Rafa Benitez went on the attack as he could now add the Paraguayan to Rondon and Perez, to change the emphasis to going forward not back, unless up against the top teams.

In the final 16 Premier League matches, only four clubs picked up more points than the 27 Newcastle did and only four scored more than NUFC’s 26.

Almost a year to the day later, 22 February 2020, we will see what Newcastle team and formation Steve Bruce uses against Crystal Palace, the club who are bottom of the form league and have picked up on nine points from the last possible thirty three.

Surely the ideal time for this Newcastle team to go on the attack?

I just fail to see how Steve Bruce can argue now that he can’t try to score goals, rather than just trying to make Newcastle difficult to score/play against, as he embarrassingly admitted he’d done after the goalless draw at home to bottom club Norwich.

When looking towards Saturday, I would go with the following:

With the pace available to Bruce, he has the perfect options to play with wingers rather than very defensive wing-backs and three centre-backs.

After the 4-0 defeat at Arsenal, Valentino Lazaro stated: ‘We have to bounce back from those mentally tough situations. I’m adjusting to that [playing wing-back], you can see that I’m a winger and my strengths are in attack.’

You play to your strengths, or at least you should do, so let Lazaro play in his natural position.

Likewise, last season we saw Miguel Almiron is far better on the left, especially if given some freedom to come inside as well, so get him back where he can do the most damage.

As for Allan Saint-Maximin, clearly he has to be given as much freedom as possible in order to do the most damage. There is nothing wrong with Joelinton’s workrate most of the time and he prefers to play deeper and out to the left, so he can help create space through the middle for ASM (and Almiron) to run at the heart of the Palace defence and finally see Newcastle having a real goal threat.

Asked about why Isaac Hayden was left out at Arsenal, Steve Bruce claimed: ‘I just think Sean (Longstaff) picked himself from his performance against Oxford. Bentaleb has played well in the games we have played so I just thought why not.’

To be honest, I haven’t seen anything much from Bentaleb. Certainly nothing that Hayden can’t do, in fact I think the former Arsenal player is a level above the loan signing. It reminds me a bit of the last time NUFC were relegated, in the January we signed Shelvey and Townsend but then instead of buying a forward/goalscorer, there was a pointless purchase of another central midfielder in Henri Saivet, with then a vefry late afterthought budget loan deal for the hopeless Seydou Doumbia.

Last season Newcastle played some of their best games when Sean Longstaff and Isaac Hayden were paired together, their youth/energy allowing the more attacking players to get forward. To me it is a no-brainer to play them ahead of Bentaleb, I just hope there is no daft clause meaning we have to play the former Spurs midfielder regardless.

Then at the back we can revert to a back four, with Lejeune coming in alongside Lascelles, Danny Rose on the left as a proper left-back, then on the right give Schar a game at right-back. Too good to be out of the team and his quality on the ball and passing far superior to any other option we have on the right, even when they (Krafth, Yedlin, Manquillo) are all available.

I don’t see how this line-up would leave Martin Dubravka any more exposed than he has been already this season, facing more shots than any other keeper, plus this Newcastle team at last provides a real threat going forward.

I wonder/fear though what Steve Bruce has planned…

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