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Opinion

Steve Bruce still blaming Rafa Benitez for his Newcastle United tactics ahead of final game of the season

2 weeks ago
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Quite astonishing to still hear, ahead of the final match, Steve Bruce still blaming Rafa Benitez for his (Bruce’s) tactics and team formation this season.

Still peddling the myth that he inherited a struggling team that only knew how to play all out defence and had no idea going forward.

The reality is that ahead of Steve Bruce taking over, the final 28 matches of last season saw Rafa’s NUFC with the eighth best form in the Premier League.

Then once some small bit of ambition was shown in the transfer market with Almiron coming in on 31 January 2019, the Paraguayan helped Newcastle end the season in the final 16 games with the fifth best form and fifth highest number of PL goals in that 16 game run-in.

This season has been dreadful under Steve Bruce, not just in terms of being the most negative season football most of us have ever seen, but also the most clueless.

So much luck in so many games for Bruce AND no wonder Martin Dubravka has just been named NUFC player of the year.

The Other 14 specialise in stats for the clubs that aren’t ‘big six’ clubs and they have just published a table showing the difference between Expected Goals (xG) and Expected Goals Against (xGA) for TheOther14 teams across the PL season with one game to go.

It is an absolute miracle that somehow Newcastle have ended up with 23 more points than Norwich with one game to go, considering the two clubs have almost identical records for the number and quality of chances they have created AND those chances they have conceded.

No wonder Martin Dubravka has made more saves this season than any other PL keeper!

As for the possession stats, to average under 40% for the season takes some doing (stats via FC Tables):

Inheriting a squad that had conceded fewer goals in 2017/18 and 2018/19 than all but two clubs outside the top four in both seasons AND which had seen £80m spent on three attacking players in 2019, this team / squad should never have been expected to struggle so badly and defend so deeply week after week, without any kind of an attacking plan for the vast majority of games.

I will be absolutely dreading next season if Mike Ashley and Steve Bruce are still here.

On Monday at Brighton, it was maybe the worst ever under Steve Bruce, which says something.

With only four wins in the last 19 PL matches we are only heading one way if Bruce stays.

Steve Bruce speaking ahead of the Liverpool match about tactics and the way his Newcastle team have played:

“I didn’t think I could implement change any quicker [from the way they played in recent seasons].

“The players were used to playing in a certain way, to defend deep and to play on the counter-attack, basically that is the way the club has been for the last two or three years…

“I very quickly learned that they weren’t ready for change.

“Since we have changed I think we have been better in terms of holding on to the ball and being more of a goal threat.

“There has been a little change but nothing radical, I have not done what Graham Potter did at Brighton for example.

“I did not think we were ready, we will be and we will try to improve the squad and make us better, that is what we will try to achieve.”

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