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Is this how low we have fallen? People excited about Newcastle only losing 2-1 to Leeds

4 weeks ago
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Like a moth drawn to the flame, I couldn’t resist switching on for the latest exciting instalment of this Newcastle United season.

Marcelo Bielsa bringing his Leeds United team to Toon.

Now they are exciting, though some punters / pundits mistakenly comparing this Leeds outfit to the Kevin Keegan one at Newcastle United back in the day.

The thing is with that Newcastle team of the 1990s, why wouldn’t you go on the attack all game? With the likes of Beardsley, Lee, Ginola, Shearer, Ferdinand and Cole in the various line-ups we watched, as well as a great supporting cast of many others, why wouldn’t you try and create as many chances as possible to score buckets of goals?

The thing is as well, it was a total myth that Kevin Keegan was then reckless about leaving Newcastle open to conceding far too many goals. Bottom line was that when your midfield and strikers are so good, they will rarely get caught out as they are top players who don’t gift possession very often. In his four Premier League seasons, the teams Kevin Keegan built conceded only 41 in 42 (1993/94), 47 in 42 (1994/95), 37 in 38 (1995/96) and 40 in 38 (1996/97).

The really exciting thing about this Marcelo Bielsa team / experiment this season, is that he is going all out attack and high pressing with a lot of players who simply aren’t all that good.

As things stand now on Wednesday morning, after 19 Premier League games, Leeds have scored 32 but conceded 35, only West Brom and Palace have conceded more, Newcastle fourth highest with 34.

If you aren’t scoring at least two goals against Leeds then you aren’t taking advantage of their style which gifts goals with a minimum of fuss. They have been having to play without their first choice centre-backs pretty much all season and last night, Llorente lasted only 10 minutes before Bielsa was forced into a swift change. When you add in how woeful Leeds are at defending set-pieces, it really is a recipe for any decent opposition team to make hay if they play them right, especially when Leeds are at a low ebb.

Ahead of playing Newcastle last night, in 2021 Leeds had lost 3-0 at Tottenham, 3-0 at (League Two Crawley Town) and 1-0 at home to Brighton.

Against both Brighton and Crawley, Leeds only managed two efforts on target in each game.

Our expectations of Newcastle are so low, especially if facing a team who will attack us, plus having been slaughtered 5-2 (yes Steve it was 2-2 well into the second half BUT only by some miracle we weren’t dead and buried already) by Leeds only last month. Fair to say that Newcastle fans were VERY confident that their team would make it 11 without a win last night.

Leeds came out and from the start dominated with ease, Steve Bruce playing a back five against Leeds’ sole (and very ordinary) striker Patrick Bamford, gifting domination of the midfield to the visitors.

They must have been loving it, the perfect scenario for Bielsa and his players to play their way back into form and confidence.

Going a goal up on 17 minutes, Leeds in pretty much total control. For only four minutes of the final 73 minutes plus added time, would Leeds not be ahead.

Despite all of the above and Newcastle losing 2-1, bizarrely I saw a fair number of NUFC fans pretty excited about what they had just watched, no surprise to see Steve Bruce claiming that this defeat (DEFEAT) gave him a lot of hope for the upcoming matches BUT what on earth are fans thinking of?

Is this how low we have fallen? People excited about Newcastle only losing 2-1 to Leeds.

Yes we had a bit of a go in the second-half but back in the day, no matter what the team was and who the manager was, NUFC always used to do that! After all, if you are getting beat, what have you got to lose? We have become so used to Steve Bruce just accepting defeat in games and being so clueless as to how to try and get back into matches, some people have lost all sense of perspective. The expectations aren’t low for some people, they are practically non-existent.

Leeds can knock it about nice at times but dear me, if you attack them you can drive a double decker bus through their midfield.

Steve Bruce was loving it after the match, wanting to take credit because his team had created a few chances and scored a good team goal. However, I do feel that anything good that does happen, is despite Bruce’s tactics, not because of him.

Obviously Allan Saint-Maximin is the ultimate for that, he came on for the last 26 minutes and did really well. Just basically he gets given the ball (Bruce’s only attacking plan, ever) and runs with it, against a tired nervous Leeds team it couldn’t have been more perfect for him. Predictably, Leeds resorting to foul means to stop him, leading to a series of free-kicks in very good positions. This then though also helps to show how clueless the preparations are in training, free-kicks around the box saw a succession of taker with Schar, Shelvey and Gayle all having a go, do they not practice these in training and have a main man to rely on to get it right? There again, it is so rare Newcastle get into forward positions usually, Bruce probably doesn’t see the point in players preparing for the possibility.

The better moments in that second-half, as well as ASM doing his own thing, came when the likes of Schar and Almiron did similar. Schar at times just taking it upon himself to surge up the pitch from one box to the other, not something Bruce has ever encouraged in the past, preferring to see his defenders tied by some invisible cord to their own box.

Whilst Almiron running freely and thus creating chances, causing problems for the opposition, who’d have thought it? Well, in actual fact you only have to recall when he first arrived and he was excellent in those nine starts under Rafa, the Spaniard giving him free rein to run into dangerous positions all over the pitch, Newcastle beating the likes of Southampton, Leicester, Huddersfield, Everton and Burnley in those nine matches, as Almiron inspired such a change in play with Rafa finally getting a signing who could change the way United attacked.

These past 18 months have seen Steve Bruce tie Almiron into a role as an extra defender 95% of the time, then expected to run from the edge of his own box when he does get the ball, with the entire opposition team to get past.

There has always been some optimism for better with this squad, a feeling that under another manager they could show themselves not to be so limited, that is the likes of Almiron, ASM and Wilson, along with others, were played high up the pitch and encouraged to press the opposition, it could lead to good possession in dangerous positions. It is hardly reinventing the wheel.

The trouble is, you just wonder what Steve Bruce will end up doing on Saturday, playing against an Everton side with one of the best defences (only 21 conceded). Newcastle and Bruce got lucky at home to Everton when catching them at a low ebb and missing most of their real quality players, this time they face the scousers who are on a run of five wins in their last six PL matches.

As well as wanting rid of Ashley of course, the only way possibly forward on the pitch is to get rid of Steve Bruce and get a proper manager in, who would be able to set this Newcastle team up and give it a chance.

StatsĀ from BBC Sport:

Newcastle 1 Leeds 2 – Tuesday 26 January 6pm

Goals:

Newcastle:

Almiron 57

Leeds:

Raphinha 17, Harrison 61

(Half-time stats in brackets)

Possession was Leeds 58% (63%) Newcastle 42% (37%)

Total shots were Leeds 9 (6) Newcastle 22 (7)

Shots on target were Leeds 2 (1) Newcastle 5 (0)

Corners were Leeds 5 (3) Newcastle 9 (3)

Referee: Anthony Taylor

Newcastle United:

Darlow, Murphy (Saint-Maximin 64), Lascelles, Hayden, Schar, Lewis, Hendrick, Shelvey, Almiron, Wilson, Fraser (Gayle 77)

Unused Subs:

Dubravka, M Longstaff, Carroll, Joelinton, Ritchie, Krafth, Manquillo

Crowd: 00,000

(BBC Sport comments from neutrals about Steve Bruce and Newcastle after Leeds – Read HERE)

(Losing to Leeds and making it 11 without a win – Steve Bruce declares ‘cruel at times’ – Read HERE)

(Marcelo Bielsa verdict on beating Newcastle “It was very difficult but we managed to do it” – Read HERE)

(Newcastle 1 Leeds 2 – Watch all the goals in official match highlights – Watch HERE)

(Newcastle 1 Leeds 2 – Instant NUFC fan/writer reaction to Tuesday’s defeat – Read HERE)

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