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Opinion

Newcastle United need to play to their strengths and work on these weaknesses

3 weeks ago
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It has been a long season so far as a Newcastle United fan, but at least I’ve had some early nights, having not bothered to watch the MOTD review of a good number of our games.

Despite some truly awful performances we are still told to be grateful, be content with not being relegated and that Steve Bruce is doing a great job.

For reference, I’m writing this on Sunday while watching Leeds vs Burnley, with ourselves and Leeds in a similar position, Newcastle United having a game in hand. I know who I’d rather have been watching so far this season.

So, some sat on the sofa analysis of the Newcastle United strengths and weaknesses…

One of the biggest strengths of previous seasons was getting balls into the box. Time and time again Matt Ritchie would beat somebody down the wing and launch a good cross in, time and time again this season we are beating the man on the wing, then passing backwards. Part of this is nobody has got into the box – it makes a total waste of signing Fraser and Lewis, along with playing Murphy or Ritchie (Even Yedlin who was getting forward against City), if nobody is getting in for a cross. The more telling sign is when Joelinton is up, there they are reluctant to cross – does that mean from training it’s a waste of time aiming for him?

A current weakness is scoring goals. Despite having some quick counter-attacking players, often there is no support and nowhere for them to go.

Would it not be a really good idea to try and become a great set-piece side? Play off the defender for a corner, have a plan, have lots of options to try, know how you attack tall CBs, how you dominate an uncertain keeper. Despite having players who can, or maybe could, put in some excellent corners, they have been totally lacking this season – if you can’t coach a good corner routine then what are you doing?

An ongoing weakness is possession. However, the numbers don’t tell it all.

Under Rafa we kept top teams further out, shielding the penalty area and forcing teams to work a lot harder. However, time and time again this season we have just been taken apart. It is OK to let the opposition have the ball…but not in the danger areas.

We also now seem unable to string enough passes together to get a break – again we don’t need to be countering flat out all the time, just absorb some pressure, pick out a pass. Players don’t forget how to do that, so what has changed?

Next up is injuries –  some unavoidable and some seem to be self-inflicted.

Seeing players limp around a pitch not being able to make a difference, while we have replacements on the bench going unused, makes no sense. Either the players on the bench are not up to the job, or Bruce doesn’t know how to use them.

Surely in training before a game, the entire match day squad must know how they will fit in and play if they come on. Again, seems to be a total failure of coaching, to just have a bunch of bench warmers sat there while ASM / Wilson etc. continue when they should be coming off.

So in summary, rather than building on what we had and working on our weaknesses, Steve Bruce has binned off our strengths and not worked on a single weakness.

Unfortunately, until the ownership issue changes I don’t think we will be in a position to welcome a Manager willing to take on the project that Newcastle United is, we get stuck with trying to maintain a position and hoping we don’t go down.

I’m not expecting to win the league next year but getting the best from this group of Newcastle United players is the minimum any of us should be asking for.

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