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Steve Bruce confirms Newcastle formation for Southampton and two big questions now to be answered

3 weeks ago
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Steve Bruce met the media on Friday morning.

The NUFC Head Coach speaking to journalists ahead of training.

Last weekend, after much talk, Steve Bruce finally changed to a back four against Burnley.

This morning he has indicated that he will keep this ‘new’ formation against Southampton on Saturday.

It looks a potentially pivotal game, as a win would take Newcastle well on the way to safety, but defeat would effectively leave Newcastle in a group of seven fighting relegation with things starting to look even more bleak if the current five points above safety is cut further.

No club outside the bottom two has a worse goal difference than Newcastle, so can the new formation pay dividends?

Well, Newcastle have the worst form in the Premier League with only one win and seven points from the last 10 matches and only seven goal in the last 12 PL games. Against a very defensive Burnley side happy to sit back, Newcastle had more possession and relative control, until they got in the final third and struggled to create any real clear chances, 21 shots but nearly all from distance and only four of them on target, Nick Pope in the Burnley goal without a serious shot to save.

Southampton though are sure to attack and Newcastle have the worst defensive record of all 20 clubs away from home, a massive 29 conceded in 14 games.

Can the new NUFC formation top conceding and more importantly can they start scoring? The blank against Burnley means it is over six hours since Newcastle last scored a PL goal.

If Steve Bruce once again goes with Almiron behind Gayle, as he appears to be indicating, who will play the supporting roles?

It appears to be any two of Shelvey, Hayden [those two played against Burnley], Bentaleb and Sean Longstaff.

Then last Saturday it was Joelinton on the left and Ritchie on the right.

Steve Bruce says ASM is fit [after the fireworks of fallout/bust-up this week on whether he was fit for Burnley] for Southampton, whilst Lazaro is now free of suspension.

Two biggest questions for me now then, are will it be ASM or Joelinton on the left and Ritchie or Lazaro on the right, as the Austrian can’t play at right-back, not even right wing-back on what we have seen so far as he is clearly a right winger/midfielder and not a defender.

Steve Bruce could of course always put Joelinton back through the middle at the expense of Gayle in order to accommodate Joelinton AND ASM but that would surely be a very backward step, pushing the Brazilian into a position where he was looking ever worse and unhappy.

A big day for Steve Bruce tomorrow and can he make the right decisions?

Steve Bruce asked if will stick with formation change (back four and Almiron up front as second striker) made against Burnley:

“The players are comfortable with it and I think that is vitally important.

“We did a lot of work [before making the change of formation] because they had played a certain way for a long time.

“We played Miggy [against Burnley] in his best position, which for me is probably off the front [centre-forward].

“It has brought him back to life.”

Injuries/fitness:

“Allan [Saint-Maximin] is OK, bright yesterday and we think he is going to be OK [for Southampton], which I think that goes for them all.

“Manquillo was sore yesterday and we will see how he is but touch wood, everyone has come through [alright after West Brom].”

On Southampton:

“They had a really good run [8 win in 14 PL games before losing at West Ham last weekend] and when you go down there, it’s always going to be difficult, but we are quietly confident we can go and take something from the game.

“Southampton have a striker who has 15 goals a season with Danny Ings having remarkable season.”

Surviving?:

“We have a decent platform [after only winning one of last 10 PL matches] to get to the magic points tally, whatever that is.

“Burnley won two in a week [actually four wins and a draw in five games before drawing at Newcatle] and suddenly were out of trouble.”

The new contracts agreed with Jonjo Shelvey and Matt Ritchie:

“I am delighted.

“They have been very, very good over the last few years for Newcastle and I have been lucky enough to inherit the two of them.

“If you look over the previous three years, what they have done and how they have been, they have been the core of the club for a few years.

“I think it is vitally important they still have an influence and I am delighted they have committed.”

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