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Even from Dallas, Texas, I can see a puzzle Steve Bruce is struggling to solve

12 months ago

It is near as impossible to mess up a jigsaw puzzle.

It might take a while to figure out where every piece goes, but the simple fact remains, that each one fits into a specific place.

I’m going to suggest that Steve Bruce isn’t one for jigsaws!

Bruce’s continued insistence of playing people blatantly out of position is simply bewildering.

Einstein defined insanity as “doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” If so, Bruce has seriously lost the plot!

He feeds us the cliche that it’s a “work in process.”

If said process results in a dismally aimless and dull team that continuously surrenders possession and valuable points, with little or no attacking threat, I’m just not interested.

I’m a strong believer in playing to your strengths. As a rapidly ageing and angering centre forward, there is little point in sticking the ball into the channel for me to chase. Play it to my feet or into my ever-growing belly and I’ve at least got a chance.

Newcastle’s current strengths surely lie in having pace and trickery out wide, a good finisher in and around the box, a hard working solid central midfield, and decent enough options in the middle of the defence. Steve Bruce apparently sees that differently, determined to squeeze the proverbial round peg in the square hole.

I’d love us to play 4-2-3-1 (like the good sides do!) and I think we’ve got the players to pull it off. I fully acknowledge Steve Bruce is never going to play this way but wouldn’t it be great if this was the pot of gold at the end of his process.

I’m sick and tired of rolling out three centre-backs week after week, lining up against one striker. Fernandez (arguably the most consistent of the three), Schar and particularly Lascelles, aren’t the best markers and are regularly caught out of position.

How many times against Southampton did they have midfielders turn and run 20 yards unchallenged without any CB stepping out to challenge, or glare at each other after Che Adams (he’s no Rashford or Kane!) got the ball in acres of space? Schar drops to the bench on current form plus he doesn’t look like he gives a monkeys these days.

Lewis is doing fine at LB and has the legs to get forward and support and I thought Manquillo was doing a decent job at RB before being dropped recently. Murphy is no RB. He’s got the legs to get up and down at wing-back and isn’t a bad man to man defender, but he regularly makes terrible decisions in possession of the ball.

So, Lewis, Fernandez, Lascelles and Manquillo at the back or me.

Hayden and Sean Longstaff should start in front of the defence. Hayden has been our best and most consistent player over recent seasons and is the ideal holding midfielder who can step back between the central defenders as needed, to cover or receive the ball. Longstaff’s form has been poor for the last 18 months but it’s time for him to step up and prove he’s worth a shirt. I’d be happy enough to replace him with Hendrick who’s still an upgrade to Matty.

*The glaring omission is of course Shelvey – sorry, not sorry!

I’m done with Jonjo who simply doesn’t show the desire, industry and consistency necessary, despite the occasional world class 70 yard pass. We just can’t afford to carry him any longer. Move him on in January and bring in Lewis Cook from Bournemouth.

Assuming everyone is fit, ASM is starting wide left, Almiron centrally, and Fraser right. All three work their socks off both sides of the ball and when needed, any one of them is interchangeable for a third central midfielder at the top of a triangle.

ASM is wasted centrally – he was truly awful at Southampton. His pace and trickery are best utilised running at people from wide positions, not 30 yards out, with back to goal. Similarly, the sooner Bruce realizes that Almiron is never going to be an old fashioned inside left the better. He gives 100% every game but his threat lies in the opposition’s half, carrying the ball, not tucked-in, tracking a central midfielder or as an auxiliary left back.

Thank God for Callum Wilson! He’s proved he can score goals, even in a team creating little and playing so badly. We all know we’re in trouble if he’s out for any length of time. Although he’s proven to be better at holding up the ball than I anticipated, Wilson needs service and crosses in behind defences and he’ll get on the end of them.

Steve Bruce is missing several pieces for whatever puzzle he’s working on. In the meantime, I’m praying that the lads can stay fit, and that Bruce will magically land on a line up and plan that will bring some half decent football, a bit of pace and passion, resulting in consistent results.

Nobody is interested in simply staying in games and hoping to nick something. I’m not sure how many more post-match excuses I can handle.

Keep the faith. Howay the lads!

An exiled Mag in Dallas, TX


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