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For those thinking display v Burnley was ‘proof’ of Newcastle United improvement – Check this out

5 months ago
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Newcastle United at last made that major leap of faith Steve Bruce had been promising.

The NUFC Head Coach masterminding a return to playing with a back four.

Quite amazing that so many journalists and indeed fans as well, have gone along with the propaganda that to go successfully from one formation to another is a work of genius.

Something along the lines of splitting the atom or discovering black holes.

Bearing in mind that pretty much all of Newcastle’s first team squad will have played in a team with a back four for most of their footballing lives, it isn’t exactly revolutionary.

So was the whole experience a success though.

Well, despite it now being over six hours since Newcastle fans have seen a Premier League goal and the Burnley keeper didn’t have a serious save to make, Saturday was widely regarded as an improvement.

From a starting point of having been dreadful for some time (only 1 win in 9 and 7 goals in 11 before Saturday), a pretty low bar had been set.

Newcastle did have 21 shots on Saturday, amazingly more possession (54%) than the opposition, and some possession close to Burnley’s goal, well box anyway.

It was marginally better and a little bit more entertaining than what we have come to expect under Steve Bruce but there were reasons why this was allowed to happen…

This from FCTables shows what the average possession for Premier League clubs this season have been, after the weekend’s matches:

As you can see, Newcastle United very bottom with under 37% average possession, then just above them…Burnley, with just over 41%.

In actual fact, Burnley had MORE possession than they are used to, indeed the 46% at St James Park was far more than they are used to away from home.

Their previous five PL away games had seen 36% at Southampton, 28% at Man Utd, 34% at Chelsea, 32% at Everton and 35% at Bournemouth.

Reality is that Burnley usually sit back and then try to hit you on the break, either through the likes of McNeil who is a decent winger, or longer balls up to forwards such as Wood and Barnes.

Saturday saw Burnley have far less ambition even than usual, having reached 37 points from 27 games, it was clear from early on that they were well up for seeing out a goalless draw as they are more or less guaranteed safety.

They sat back, let Newcastle for once have control of a midfield, knowing fine well that Steve Bruce and his team are clueless at scoring goals.

Yes there were 21 shots but 17 were off target, mostly from long range and/or poor positions. Packed penalty areas on set-pieces saw a decent number of efforts predictably blocked, whilst in open play we only really saw two or three times where anything ever looked like opening up for Newcastle.

I have a feeling that those who are very much glass half full after Saturday could get a bit of a shock at Southampton next week and beyond.

They dominated at St James Park and should have had the game in the bag, only for wasteful finishing and Martin Dubravka to keep it at 1-0, before out of nowhere Newcastle delivered two late sucker punches.

The Saints will attack on Saturday and I confidently predict, will control the midfield. We may well keep the back four and most of the team that played Burnley but as usual we will be back to deep defending and minimal attacking (I will be amazed if Newcastle have 40% or more possession).

I hope I am wrong but everything I have seen this season tells me that this will be the case.

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