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Opinion

Shameless : After 14 months and £100m net spend Steve Bruce still blaming Rafa for how NUFC play

3 weeks ago
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Steve Bruce knows no shame.

There are literally no depths he won’t sink to, to avoid blame for what happens at Newcastle United.

Since 21 December 2019, only five wins (two of them against 10 men) in 23 Premier League games. Of the Premier League clubs who were also in the top tier last season, Newcastle have the worst form of all 17 PL clubs over these past nine and a half months.

Despite the poor /shocking statistics of wins and points, they are actually ridiculously better than they deserve to be, as Steve Bruce has carried such luck, as seen when getting a point at Spurs on Sunday, that ludicrous Everton 2-2 draw when Lejeune scored twice in the final minute, along with many other examples.

However, it is what the Newcastle fans watch that is far more worrying, even than the results.

Not just the feeble (non-existent) entertainment / enjoy factor, though that is important, but the fact the supporters can see so clearly just how clueless Steve Bruce is when it comes to tactics, formation, team selection and so on, especially in terms of attacking threat.

Steve Bruce has addressed the lack of attacking threat from his team, which has seen only three efforts on target in five hours of Premier League football so far this season, simply a continuation of what we watched throughout 2019/20.

Speaking after the embarrassing tactics, game plan and performance at Tottenham, Steve Bruce knows where the fault lies for the lack of attacking threat…Rafa Benitez!

“It has not just been like that for the last two or three months.

“It has been like that for two or three years.

“That is why we have bought in players but unfortunately some aren’t ready yet and of course we missed Allan Saint-Maximin and Ryan Fraser, who are natural wide players.

“We have to improve that area of being difficult to beat and difficult to play against but obviously [also] with a goal threat.

“That is what the Premier League is.

“It has been difficult for us for a good while.

“I don’t think it [the lack of attacking threat] will change overnight just because we have brought in the personnel.

“That is the hard part of the Premier League.”

It is quite shameful and embarrassing.

This is nothing to do with Rafa Benitez, it is all to do with Steve Bruce.

He came into Newcastle United promising the team would always play on the ‘front foot’ and we are yet to see it, apart from up a point in a small handful of games. Instead it is simply telling all of the players, apart from the totally isolated striker, to all stay as close to Newcastle’s goal as possible and give the ball to ASM, if he is playing, and hope he does something by himself, or get as far up the pitch as possible to try and get a chance to lump the ball into the box and hope something happens.

Steve Bruce is also making excuses already for the weeks and months ahead, warning us that things won’t ‘change overnight’ just because he has brought in (more) new signings.

Steve Bruce has been here over 14 months, Mike Ashley has allowed him a £100m net spend on signings, mostly in attacking positions, yet Newcastle are simply getting worse and worse in terms of attacking threat, and of course in terms of the clueless tactics overall.

Ralph Hassenhuttll has been at Southampton only since December 2018, had a net spend of only £17m (stats via Transfermarkt) in his time there so far, yet very quickly transformed the way that the Saints play. Playing far better football and more attacking threat.

Graham Potter at Brighton, exactly the same. He has had the same number of Premier League games with his side as Steve Bruce has had, after taking over at the Seagulls in summer 2019. Last season he got them playing really good football and now they have added goal threat to that and look a really promising progressive team, Potter also with a far less net spend (£45m) than Bruce has had.

When Steve Bruce declares about attacking threat and scoring goals: ‘It has been difficult for us for a good while’, he is surely talking about himself and not Newcastle, his entire Premier League career as a manager really.

This table showed how Steve Bruce had done as a Premier League manager with his career statistics (average points per game, average goals scored, average goals conceded), before taking over at Newcastle last summer, compared to previous NUFC bosses in their PL management careers:

As you can see, over the course of 392 games in charge of Premier League clubs, Steve Bruce teams had averaged 1.03 goals per game.

In 41 Premier League games with Newcastle, Steve Bruce has overseen 41 goals scored in 41 PL matches, an average of 1.00 goals per game.

This is who Steve Bruce is, a very poor Premier League manager, who had found himself a permanent Championship boss, until Mike Ashley was looking for somebody who was his kind of ideal, somebody not good enough for the job and so desperate to take it, he would faithfully do exactly as he was told to say and do.

Rafa Benitez was starved of funds by Mike Ashley and completely undermined time and again. He built a quality defence with minimal funds, that was seventh best in both 2017/18 and 2018/19 in terms of goals conceded, last season under Steve Bruce the same defence was the seventh worst in terms of goals conceded, whilst at the same time you had to go back to 1997/98 for a season when NUFC scored less goals than they did last season under Bruce in the PL.

The thing was though, Rafa Benitez, despite minimal help from Mike Ashley, had turned it around in terms of attacking threat and goals.

Finally allowed the purchase of Miguel Almiron on 31 January 2019 and despite only having the benefit of nine PL starts from the Paraguayan, Miggy helped Rafa Benitez with his attacking plan that just needed some added pace in transition to help make a big leap forward.

This table below shows the Premier League form table for the final 16 games of the 2018/19 season:

premier league form table 2018/19 from match week 23

As you can see, Rafa’s NUFC had the fifth best form in the Premier League in the final four months or so he was at St James Park. This is what Steve Bruce inherited, not a struggling team.

The stats above also show that only four PL clubs scored more than Newcastle’s 26 goals in these final four months or so of the season.

Yes, Mike Ashley forced Perez and Rondon out as well as Rafa Benitez, before Steve Bruce came in, BUT I repeat, Steve Bruce has been allowed a net spend of £100m and most of that money has been spent on attacking players, plus he has had the full benefit of Miguel Almiron (unlike Rafa who only had him for nine PL starts) but then Bruce playing him as an extra right-back most of the time.

What is of course most important on top of all that, is that a quality manager such as Rafa worked with and improved so many players, plus found different ways for them to play both as individuals and as a team.

Hassenhuttl has done that at Southampton, Potter at Brighton, countless managers and coaches at other clubs doing the same.

However, at Newcastle United, Steve Bruce is doing the same, that is exactly the same as he has always done in his 20+ years as a manager, attempting to stumble along and cling onto his job, whilst his team play terrible negative football.

No more blaming Rafa Benitez, this is on you Steve Bruce.

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