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Opinion

Biggest weakness in Steve Bruce cunning all out defensive ‘plan’, against some serious competition

2 months ago
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Steve Bruce has got his cunning plan very much laid out.

We are now over 10 weeks into the season and it would be very difficult for anybody not to spot what this cunning plan is.

From kick-off, get all the players gathered in the defensive third, give the opposition total control and hope they don’t score.

You have to credit Steve Bruce with at least coming up with a cunning plan that nobody else has considered using.

Although, the reason for that, is of course, because the Bruce tactical masterpiece is absolute nonsense.

In five of the nine Premier League matches so far, the opposition have scored in the opening 25 minutes.

Against Brighton it was seven minutes, same with Southampton, NUFC hanging on until the 10th minute against Chelsea (thanks to two earlier quality saves from Darlow). There is actually another match where Newcastle conceded even earlier, Newport scoring after only five minutes and Steve Bruce very lucky to escape defeat when Shelvey scored in the final few minutes.

Moura scored for Spurs on 23 minutes and Maguire for Man Utd on 25, this isn’t a defensive strategy is it really? It is just simply gathering your players close to their own goal and hoping the opposition don’t take their numerous chances.

In the five PL games where Newcastle conceded in the opening 25 minutes, they only picked up a single point, that ludicrous draw at Tottenham where I still can’t understand how they didn’t win by five or six. Maybe Bruce’s very best bit of luck since the two Lejeune goals away at Everton last season.

Now it has been pointed out to Bruce / Baldrick that his cunning plan has a small flaw…

“It [conceding early goals] is something we are going to have to address, before we even start we are a goal down, so we will have to have a look at that and start better. It is a frustration and we have got to make sure we get back to that defensive organisation that keeps you in a game.’

Steve Bruce obviously believing his own publicity, a myth that he has ever really had any great ‘defensive organisation’, simply a packed defence and relying on luck, Karl Darlow and wasteful finishing from the opposition to prevent the goals flowing.

Simple fact is that Steve Bruce actually hits the nail on the head himself, saying ‘before we even start we are a goal down’, the only problem is that he doesn’t recognise that this should be a clear reference to his tactics, instead of some other mystery circumstances that he wants to imagine to be the case.

In 2017/18 Rafa Benitez had the seventh best defence with 47 goals conceded, seventh best again in the 2018/19 PL season with 48 conceded.

Last season (2019/20) Steve Bruce managed to change that to become the seventh worst defence with 58 conceded, at the moment NUFC are sixth worst with 15 conceded in nine games so far, which if continued would see 63 conceded this season.

Quite an accomplishment when at the same time, Steve Bruce has managed to oversee only 21 efforts on target by his team in the nine PL matches.

Even more so when you acknowledge that as well as inheriting such an excellent disciplined defence, Steve Bruce has then been allowed a £100m+ net spend on mainly attacking players, in his 16 months so far.

His Baldrick level cunning plan managing to dismantle Rafa’s excellent defensive shield and at the same time limit Newcastle to far less chances at the other end than we saw even under Benitez. Not forgetting as well that once he was allowed his first relatively ambitious signing of Miguel Almiron, Rafa went a lot more on the attack and in the final 16 games of 2018/19, Newcastle accumulated the fifth highest number of points and scored the fifth highest number of goals.

Now in his 23rd year as a manager, what success in the past has Steve Bruce got to draw on?

Never won a trophy, never finished top eight in the Premier League, a single European campaign that ended in August(!) when at Hull.

Limited tactics that saw him arrive at St James Park with a PL record of his teams playing 392 games and averaging 1.02 goals per game.

As other people more and more point out, the pundits describe it as Steve Bruce’s counter-attacking Newcastle team, when in reality there is no counter-attacking of any note. We are a team where Bruce masses the players around the box and hopes for the best, then the odd time we get possession, give the ball to Allan Saint-Maximin and hope he does something.

That isn’t counter-attacking, it is simply desperate nonsense that no other Premier League manager (or Head Coach) would get away with.

Even Alan Shearer was left with alternative but to call out Steve Bruce after the desperate tactics on Saturday, when one of your best mates is forced into that position then Bruce needs to radically change his ideas or resign. Unfortunately, I think there is zero chance of him doing either.

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