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Sunday morning defending? It’s Sunday morning management Steve Bruce needs to worry about

4 months ago
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Steve Bruce surveyed the wreckage of Leeds 5 Newcastle 2.

No surprise that his take on it was vastly different to that of most Newcastle United fans.

The NUFC Head Coach claiming that Newcastle had ‘given as good as we got’ for the opening 85% (77 / 78 minutes) of the match, then blaming the defending for the three late goals.

As I say, for your typical Newcastle fan watching at home, it was very different what was going through my / your head.

Basically, this was an end game / result that could have happened pretty much any other week.

Indeed, before 90% or more of games, you will find Newcastle fans wondering if this is the one? The match where Steve Bruce and his team gets the hammering that is surely coming.

Game after game Newcastle United are overwhelmed, the only plan to have all the players arranged around Karl Darlow’s penalty area, gift total domination to the opposition with zero pressing, then just hope the opposition don’t score with any of their countless chances.

It is absolutely incredible just how often Steve Bruce has carried the luck. After having been totally outplayed but emerging after a narrow defeat, even a draw, occasionally a win, the NUFC Head Coach shameless in not acknowledging that the end result has been down to a stunning mix of Dubravka / Darlow brilliance, last gasp block after tackle after block, the woodwork, the match officials and poor finishing by the opposition.

After this 5-2 defeat, Steve Bruce declaring: ‘…we’ve gifted them the two or three goals at the end. It was something that you see on the park on a Sunday, it is unacceptable.’

You have to laugh, this is of course a huge reason as to why Mike Ashley employed him, Steve Bruce willing to say absolutely anything in press conferences, no matter how much it is a denial of the real truth.

Sunday morning defending? It’s the Sunday morning management that Steve Bruce needs to worry about.

Last night, Leeds had 25 shots, they put 28 crosses into the box in open play (not counting corners and free-kicks!), they had 69% possession, they had more than twice as many passes as Newcastle.

They absolutely battered Newcastle United.

Yes the defending in the final stages wasn’t great but those goals could have came along at any stage during the opening 77 minutes. Like the majority of games this season and last, Newcastle could already have been well hammered by that point.

The underlying stats tell us that in the vast majority of matches, a hammering could happen at any time. If Darlow has a slight off day, the defence in front of him creaks a bit, the opposition are clinical…any of these things happen and we are done for.

Steve Bruce also pointed to how bad Newcastle United’s were with their passing in forward / counter-attacking positions: ‘…we could have hurt Leeds, with the way they play. But unfortunately we missed the pass far too often, so we will keep working away at it, that’s what we’re here for.’

Newcastle United so rarely have many occasions where they find themselves in good attacking situations, due to Bruce’s ultra negative tactics, so maybe no surprise that when they found themselves there against Leeds a little bit more often than normal, they didn’t take advantage. A change from the norm, situations they don’t usually experience, lack of practice, or maybe just poor management by far the biggest factor…?

You look at Leeds and you just know what training must be like under Marcelo Bielsa, very Kevin Keegan-esque. Lots of small sided games, everybody getting on the ball, all the players encouraged to play, keep the ball and play out of a press, don’t just hoof it. The more they do this then the more and more chance they have of getting better and better at it.

Which brings us to Steve Bruce.

What happens in training at Newcastle United? My money is on it looking a lot more like Sunday morning parks level preparation, than Bielsa or Keegan level.

When Steve Bruce announces: ‘…so we will keep working away at it, that’s what we’re here for’, it sends a shiver down my spine.

Bruce has been at Newcastle United a year and a half now, has managed 60 competitive NUFC matches, including 50 in the Premier League, yet not a single player has improved in that time and indeed, many of them have regressed.

Steve Bruce inherited a defence that had been the seventh best in each of the two Rafa Benitez Premier League seasons, yet last season Bruce turned it into the seventh worst in terms of goals conceded. This season so far, only three PL clubs have conceded more goals and that is despite Karl Darlow performing heroics and the likes of Fernandez and Clark playing so well. Put simply, under Steve Bruce it isn’t the defence getting worse, it is his useless not fit for purpose ultra defensive tactics that are getting worse and worse.

After Rafa was starved of funds, Steve Bruce has been allowed a net spend of over £100m and yet the team and their general play just gets ever worse. Callum Wilson has performed wonders, directly involved in 10 (scoring 7 and 3 assists) of the 15 goals Newcastle players have scored (the one against Man U was an own goal).

Just bringing in better players can only take us so far though, whilst Steve Bruce is still here it doesn’t matter how many players you bring in. They will as individuals provide some positives BUT overall the team will always be dragged down by Steve Bruce’s substandard training and tactics.

I defy anyone to explain what Steve Bruce’s plan is.

Marcelo Bielsa clearly has a plan, a way of playing that he instils into his players and no doubt in upcoming transfer windows he will hope to be able to add players with higher ability who can thrive in his system, to keep on improving the team and results.

With Newcastle United, I still don’t understand where there is even a plan on how to score a goal.

Yes NUFC were able to counter-attack a number of times but that was solely down to the way Leeds play, they will give you that opportunity. Normally, Newcastle United will very rarely create chances on the counter-attack and pretty much never score on the counter – that opening goal against West Brom a huge surprise. Under Steve Bruce, Newcastle are simply a team that defends, they aren’t a team that sits back and hits on the counter like say Wolves.

The only ‘plan’ to score a goal is to either give the ball to ASM when he is playing, or hope to get up the pitch enough times to get in positions, largely through set-pieces, where the ball can be put in the box and hopefully someone will score.

Steve Bruce – Pure Sunday morning.

Steve Bruce after the 5-2 hammering at Leeds:

“Up until the last 12 minutes, or whatever it was, I thought that we had given as good as we got.

“Unfortunately we have been punished and given away bad goals and when you give away bad goals at this level, especially two or three of them in a matter of minutes, obviously it is difficult to swallow.

“Up until 75 minutes I was comfortable. I thought we looked a threat when we equalised [on 65 minutes].

“Of course, Leeds are always going to ask you questions, but we’ve gifted them the two or three goals at the end.

“It was something that you see on the park on a Sunday, it is unacceptable.

“I thought that we gave the ball away too often when we were in good positions and at this level you get punished, it is something that we need to improve on, the retention of the ball.

“Unfortunately, we gave it away far too cheaply, too many people who gave the ball away too cheaply, too many times, especially when we got into good areas where we could have hurt Leeds, with the way they play.

“But unfortunately we missed the pass far too often, so we will keep working away at it, that’s what we’re here for.”

Stats from BBC Sport:

Leeds 5 Newcastle 2 – Wednesday 16 December 6pm

Goals:

Newcastle:

Hendrick 26, Clark 65

Leeds:

Bamford 35, Rodrigo 61, Dallas 77, Alioski 85,  Harrison 88

(Half-time stats in brackets)

Possession was Leeds 69% (70%) Newcastle 31% (30%)

Total shots were Leeds 25 (14) Newcastle 10 (4)

Shots on target were Leeds 10 (4) Newcastle 4 (2)

Corners were Leeds 7 (2) Newcastle 4 (0)

Referee: Simon Hooper

Newcastle United:

Darlow, Murphy, Fernandez, Clark, Lewis, Hayden, S Longstaff, Hendrick (Krafth 62), Fraser (Almiron 75), Joelinton (Gayle 74), Wilson

Unused Subs:

Gillespie, M Longstaff, Carroll, Shelvey

Crowd: 00,000

(Steve Bruce relies on Amazon Prime delay with laughable claims on Leeds match – Read HERE)

(Marcelo Bielsa verdict on Leeds hammering Newcastle : ‘This was a deserved victory’ – Read HERE)

(3 Positives and 3 Negatives from Leeds 5 Newcastle 2 – Read HERE)

(Why Steve Bruce needs to play FIFA – Read HERE)

(Leeds 5 Newcastle 2 – Match ratings and comments on all the NUFC players – Read HERE)

(Leeds 5 Newcastle 2 – Instant NUFC fan/writer reaction to Wednesday’s hammering – Read HERE)

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