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Opinion

Gary Neville points to the real problem at Newcastle United

1 month ago
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I don’t always agree with Gary Neville.

Who does?

However, he is absolutely  spot on with this one.

Gary Neville talking about football clubs and their most important signings, well, signing.

The former Man Utd player was talking specifically about Everton but says it is the same for every Premier League club and those elsewhere.

Gary Neville declaring: ‘A club’s greatest investment should be in the coach.’

Never a truer word said.

The bottom line is that you can buy as many players as you want, for as much money as you like, but if the person responsible for managing them isn’t good enough, then…

Which brings us to Steve Bruce.

Quite ironic that in now 14 seasons of Mike Ashley, the most money he has ever invested in a manager (Head Coach), is Steve Bruce in July 2019.

Indeed, Bruce is the only manager / head coach that Mike Ashley has appointed who was in another job at the time.

The true madness of Mike Ashley exposed, forcing out Rafa Benitez so that he could pay a reported £4m compensation to Sheffield Wednesday for Steve Bruce.

The only comparable lunacy was when Hall and Shepherd sacked Sir Bobby Robson back in 2004 after two draws and two defeats in the opening four PL matches, then paid compensation to Blackburn for Graeme Souness, a manager who it later was revealed they were going to sack anyway.

Talking about top of the league Everton and the player who is benefiting more than anybody now, Gary Neville declares: ‘Dominic Calvert-Lewin now is thriving under Carlo Ancelotti and looks a top player.’

A top manager comes in, identifies the players who he believes he can improve, brings in the signings that he thinks the team needs and who will bring out the best in those existing players, then 10 months later you are top of the Premier League playing great football.

Since Ancelotti arrived in December 2019, Dominic Calvert-Lewin has made 26 Premier League appearances and scored 15 goals. In his previous 98 PL appearances for Everton, the striker had scored 16 goals.

Rafa Benitez improved numerous Newcastle players in his time at the club, working with them relentlessly on the training pitch and finding a system(s) to get the best out of them.

Steve Bruce has had a £100m net spend on players and after 15 months we are seeing a total mess on the pitch. Dubravka, ASM and total huge luck saved him last season, whilst the time Darlow, ASM and having a goal poacher in right place at right time to take advantage of the meagre chances created, huge helpings of luck, has somehow got Newcastle United to seven points from five games.

The writing is on the wall though.

Terrible, negative, clueless tactics mean that Steve Bruce sends his team out with the same depressing tactics / formation, defence and midfield sitting so deep and relying on giving ASM the ball and pulling something out of the hat.

Which players have / are improving under Steve Bruce?

I refuse to believe that Joelinton is truly as bad as what we are watching.

Bruce’s use of him against Man Utd was as an extra right-back when defending and when ‘attacking’, the plan was to use him as a target man on the right wing.

Joelinton has scored two PL goals and Steve Bruce has played him in EVERY single one of the 43 PL matches so far, 35 starts and eight as sub.

The Brazilian impressed in the Bundesliga and Champions League the season before Mike Ashley and Steve Bruce paid £40m for him.

I can guarantee you that whilst Rafa Benitez wasn’t keen on buying Joelinton and if they did, definitely shouldn’t pay any more than £20m for him, if indeed Rafa was now still at Newcastle, he would have found a way to get far more out of Joelinton. He would have made subtle changes with both the player himself and the team shape, to have him contributing.

Steve Bruce has said that Joelinton isn’t really a centre-forward and nor is he a natural goalscorer. Well, he definitely isn’t a right-back and nor is he a target man to pump balls up to right midfield and hope he gets on the end of them.

Rafa Benitez wasn’t my idea of a dream manager (he’s no KK or SBR) but he is a very very good one. With minimal spending / backing he got Newcastle eventually playing far better football, the eighth best form in the Premier League in his final 28 PL matches at Newcastle, then in Rafa’s final 16 PL games (helped by at last some ambition to be shown with Almiron’s arrival on 31 Jan 2019) Newcastle had the fifth best form and scored the fifth highest number of goals.

If he had not been forced out and had been allowed a £100m net spend these past 15 months as Steve Bruce has had, I am not saying Newcastle would necessarily have been top instead of Everton now, but does anybody really believe NUFC wouldn’t be doing far better than they are doing now with performances and a plan that would suggest far better times ahead?

Gary Neville talking to Sky Sports:

“A club’s greatest investment should be in the coach.

“Dominic Calvert-Lewin now is thriving under Carlo Ancelotti and looks a top player.

“We’ve spoken before about the emergence of Raheem Sterling into a really top player under Pep Guardiola, and it’s interesting that speaking to Everton fans over the last two or three years, there’s always been that feeling that ‘he’s not good enough, we need to get someone else’.

“But all of a sudden, a manager has come along that can really get performances out of him that are 20 to 30 per cent higher than the previous managers have.

“You wonder what might have happened if the next manager hadn’t fancied Calvert-Lewin or didn’t have the same quality as Carlo Ancelotti.

“It really does demonstrate the point of having a great coach.

“We’ve got great coaches in this league with Jurgen Klopp, Jose Mourinho, Pep Guardiola, Ancelotti and more.”

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