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Steve Bruce explains what/why he did against Crystal Palace – Struggling to understand

6 months ago
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Steve Bruce saw his players give him the perfect start.

After just over a minute, Miguel Almiron looped a cross into the box, Callum Wilson doing really well to deal with a bouncing ball, setting it up for Jonjo Shelvey to half volley Newcastle United into a valuable early lead.

What could possibly go wrong?

Well, in that first half I thought Steve Bruce did his usual on the rare occasions Newcastle take an early lead, allowing the opposition midfield to take a large element of control and NUFC’s pressing became poor to non-existent, as the Magpies allowed the visitors to work their way back into the game.

I wouldn’t say it was inevitable but surely no surprise when Palace’s pressure and midfield control paid off with goals in the 21st and 25th minutes.

Newcastle relying on breaks and set-pieces in that first-half to get a second goal.

Steve Bruce says: ‘We had an awkward 15 minutes where we have conceded two goals, from a mistake and a set-piece, but apart from that I couldn’t be more pleased with how we went about our work.’

The NUFC Head Coach then getting further carried away when declaring: ‘I think we have had twenty attempts on goal and two, three, four, five in the first half when we should have been more clinical.’

The reality is that Newcastle were a bit more attack minded than normal but then there again, they were losing from the 25th minute. Up against the second worst defence in the Premier League (only West Brom have conceded more than Palace, Newcastle the third worst), NUFC should have been able to provide a goal threat beyond what happened in the second minute.

Steve Bruce talks of ‘twenty attempts on goal’, well Newcastle actually had 21 shots in total BUT the vast majority were the likes of Schar, Shelvey and others shooting from thirty yards or so, with the ball missing the target by a similar distance.

When it came to shots actually on target, there were only five from Newcastle. The Shelvey goal, a few weak efforts that Guita basically just had to pick up, with the only save from the Palace keeper being when Wilson sent Fraser away and his flick was well saved.

Apart from that, the nearest Newcastle came to a second goal was Almiron clipping the bar with a free-kick and Hendrick flicking a scramble from a corner wide. That was it.

Steve Bruce wants to portray a dominant performance full of chances but in reality there was pretty much zero threat after the break, a bit like so many games this season, Bruce looking clueless when it came to doing something to change the direction of the match.

He stuck Allan Saint-Maximin on (for Hendrick) with seemingly just the usual tactics of telling him to run with the ball, Palace actually dealt with this one-dimensional tactic pretty well, with only a few corners won and Dann blocking a shot when ASM did wriggle his way into the box.

Steve Bruce then completed his substitutions with a ‘tactic’ we have seen previously (that has never worked), of basically sticking all of his attacking players on and hoping something happens. So we saw Gayle replace Manquillo and Carroll on for Clark.

Steve Bruce giving himself a pat on the back for his brilliant tactics: ‘Crystal Palace do what they do and go back to defend deep, so you have to prise them open. We had Ryan Fraser playing at right-back by the end to try and break them down but it was not enough.’

The fact that Steve Bruce thinks what he did with subs / tactics made Newcastle MORE attacking, tells you everything. Guita without a single serious shot to save after the break.

The daft substitutions indeed meant Ryan Fraser ended up at right-back BUT that was not a good thing.

For starters, he ended up being the one that Riedewald easily beat and then squared for Townsend to miss that astonishing open goal. Whilst at the other end, you end up with the likes of Wilson, Carroll and Gayle all waiting in the box for the ball to be put in, yet your most dangerous crosser of the ball is at the other end of the pitch playing right-back…

I would also dispute whether even putting Carroll on for Clark makes Newcastle more dangerous. In these past 30 months, Ciaran Clark has scored six Premier League goals, whilst Andy Carroll has only one in the past 34 months. I would honestly have just rather chucked Clark up there as an emergency centre-forward.

It wasn’t a good look either that as things quickly fell apart after that early Shelvey goal, we were treated to the usual Steve Bruce and the other Steves either staring vacantly at the action on the pitch, or huddled together in conversation.

In sharp contrast, Graeme Jones was seen on Saturday shouting out encouragement and instructions at Everton, only to be, as many people have commented, seemingly sent to the stands by Steve Bruce for this one, the Head Coach not too impressed after so many people were quick to mention Jones as a possible reason for Saturday’s improvement.

The form book now reads ten defeats, two draws and one win in the last thirteen Newcastle matches.

A must win game at home to Southampton on Saturday followed by away matches at Chelsea and Man Utd.

I can’t wait to see how Steve Bruce…or Graeme Jones, sets the team out on Saturday and beyond, then whether he (Jones) is restored to the touchline or remains out of sight in the stands.

Steve Bruce:

“I was pleased with the performance.

“We had an awkward 15 minutes where we have conceded two goals, from a mistake and a set-piece, but apart from that I couldn’t be more pleased with how we went about our work.

“We had the chances but we just dropped that little bit deep again and that cost us.

“I think we have had twenty attempts on goal and two, three, four, five in the first half when we should have been more clinical.

“Our performance levels have been better certainly over the last few weeks and we have tried to implement change in the last month or so, what you’re looking for is a performance to go with it, as so often in the Premier League, it is defining moments.

“Apart from that ten to fifteen minute spell, we had the better chances and should have taken something from the game.

“Crystal Palace do what they do and go back to defend deep, so you have to prise them open.

“We had Ryan Fraser playing at right-back by the end to try and break them down but it was not enough.

“I said about a month ago after Sheffield United that we are going to try to change.

“The players had been comfortable for a long time and we are trying to change.

“It’s what I want to do and I think the players are enjoying it performance-wise.

“If we keep going the way we are, we will be ok.”

Stats from BBC Sport:

Newcastle 1 Crystal Palace 2 – Tuesday 2 February 8.15pm

Goals:

Newcastle:

Shelvey 2

Crystal Palace:

Riedewald 21, Cahill 25

(Half-time stats in brackets)

Possession was Crystal Palace 39% (49%) Newcastle 61% (51%)

Total shots were Crystal Palace6 (5) Newcastle 21 (9)

Shots on target were Crystal Palace 3 (3) Newcastle 5 (3)

Corners were Crystal Palace 1 (1) Newcastle 9 (4)

Referee: Darren England

Newcastle United:

Darlow, Manquillo (Gayle 77), Clark (Carroll 89), Schar, Lewis, Hendrick (Saint-Maximin 63), Hayden, Shelvey, Almiron, Wilson, Fraser

Unused Subs:

Dubravka, Dummett, M Longstaff, Joelinton, Anderson, Krafth

Crowd: 00,000

(Steve Bruce defiant after Newcastle 1 Crystal Palace 2 – ‘The performance was pleasing’ – Read HERE)

(Newcastle 1 Crystal Palace 2 – Watch all 3 goals in these official match highlights – Watch HERE)

(Crystal Palace fans with interesting views on their team beating Newcastle United 2-1 at SJP – Read HERE)

(Newcastle v Crystal Palace player ratings results from NUFC fans – Back to reality – Read HERE)

(Roy Hodgson explains how his Crystal Palace team deserved all three points at St James Park – Read HERE)

(Newcastle 1 Crystal Palace 2 – Match ratings and comments on all the NUFC players – Read HERE)

(The time has come for Steve Bruce to go – Read HERE)

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

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