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Opinion

It is in the balance – Occupying the middle ground with Newcastle United

3 weeks ago
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The online 24/7 demands of the media these days, means that newspapers and the rest are always constantly trying to attract your attention.

Nothing can be occupying the middle ground.

The situation has to be very, very good, or really, really bad.

No surprises that Newcastle United aren’t occupying any middle ground this season in the eyes of the media.

In individual games this season, Newcastle were good against West Ham and really, really bad against Brighton.

Newcastle were the better team at West Ham but only edged it, as the Hammers hit the bar twice and had more shots on target, more possession and more corners.

No getting away from the Brighton one though, this definitely had ‘really, really’ in front of bad. Not a single effort on target at home as the visitors controlled the entire game, scoring three, hitting the post, could have had five or six.

However, it was still only a 90 minutes and not enough evidence to go on to claim this proves anything.

Speaking of ‘proving’ anything, that seven goal romp at Morecambe can’t be seriously taken as anything meaningful, apart from being an enjoyable to watch confidence builder for some outside the first eleven NUFC players. That though didn’t stop various journalists claiming that because certain players had done whatever on Wednesday night, it was relevant to the team Steve Bruce will pick at Tottenham.

All wins are to be enjoyed but when you play a team missing five first choice players, who got hammered 5-0 at home by Cambridge in their previous game and were 89th of the 91 clubs in the four leagues last season, you have to keep it real.

These next two matches against Tottenham and Burnley will tell us a lot more about where Newcastle United are likely to end up this season. Morecambe only told us that if Joelinton and others are allowed freedom to shoot at will from the edge of the box, they are capable of hitting the target, just as they are in training. In the top tier, getting into these positions is the tricky bit.

Surely more games the better for NUFC?

Steve Bruce has been keen to complain about the number of matches Newcastle are having to play so early in the season.

Once the final whistle goes against Burnley, United will have played seven games in the opening three weeks before heading into an international break.

Rather than a hindrance, surely this has been a massive benefit to Newcastle United and Steve Bruce?

A typically chaotic Mike Ashley transfer window saw only Mark Gillespie of the five new signings get anything other than a minimal number of days to integrate with the NUFC squad, ahead of the season.

So having so many matches can only have been a benefit to the starters, as well as giving everybody in the first team squad a decent amount of football.

Having been allowed a £100m net spend in the 14 months he has been at St James Park and with certain players not yet moving out (on loan or permanently), Steve Bruce has basically played completely different teams in the cup matches. There were ten changes against Blackburn and then nine for the Morecambe match.

Football for everybody (including progress in the cup) and no need to overplay anybody and risk injury, an ideal scenario in terms of the number of games surely?

Amongst the goals

The first three games had seen only summer signings amongst the goals, then on Wednesday that all changed as longer standing members of the Newcastle United squad supplied all seven goals (that seventh one surely was Ritchie’s not an own goal?).

Whatever the questions around that final goal against Morecambe, absolutely no question that the whole Newcastle squad have to step up and take responsibility for scoring Premier League goals this season.

Less negative tactics from Steve Bruce will be hopefully forthcoming and Newcastle really need to start getting more players into the box, otherwise a season of struggle will be all but guaranteed.

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