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5 journalists asked: ‘Are Newcastle United right to stick with Steve Bruce?’ Pretty much spot on

4 months ago
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Always good to get outside perspectives on Newcastle United and five journalists have considered the question: ‘Are Newcastle right to stick with Steve Bruce?’

Even better when the journalists in question have credibility.

All of them make some really great points about the situation at St James Park and whilst there are mixed views as to whether Steve Bruce should be replaced now, there appears to be overwhelming acceptance from them all that Bruce has no long-term future at Newcastle United.

By longer-term, I think it is difficult to see how he can stay even beyond the summer, assuming relegation is avoided, as with Newcastle fans set to back inside St James Park next season, Steve Bruce would most definitely discover that his detractors are not a minute unrepresentative minority of keyboard warriors and the vast majority (according to Bruce) thinking he is doing a great job.

The stats guys from The Athletic (Tom Worville and Mark Carey) come up with some key points that the remaining journalists and pundits who are still loyal to Steve Bruce should take careful note of .

The underlying statistics show that Newcastle United had the nineteenth best (second worst) attack last season and this season are once again nineteenth worst, though with the stats showing they are even less likely to score goals this campaign.

The stats guys saying saying that Steve Bruce ‘has dragged them into a relegation dogfight by playing too conservatively.’ When this is twinned with Steve Bruce ruining the solid disciplined defence that conceded the seventh least goals both seasons under Rafa Benitez, it is clearly a very toxic situation.

I have only just seen this analysis and it was written before the last round of games. However, it is even more relevant with Burnley having won at Everton and Brighton victorious at Southampton, whilst Newcastle only getting a lucky point with a 94th minute goal against Villa. The only positive being Fulham predictably losing against champions-elect Man City.

A pivotal weekend ahead as Fulham are home to Leeds on Friday, before Brighton v Newcastle on Saturday.

If all goes wrong, Newcastle will go into the international break in the relegation zone, a point behind Fulham and four adrift of Brighton…

These five journalists from The Athletic have taken a look at all of the clubs involved in the relegation battle, none of them Newcastle fans, or having the job of specifically looking after Newcastle United coverage.

A refreshing change as Daniel Taylor, Tom Worville, Mark Carey, Nick Miller and Dominic Fifield had their say on Newcastle United and Steve Bruce:

Are Newcastle right to stick with Steve Bruce?

Dominic Fifield:

“Is there a candidate to step in at short notice and instigate an immediate upturn in results to carry them away from trouble? That has to be the first thing to ascertain, surely.

“Could, for example, Eddie Howe, a manager who is available and has previously worked with Ryan Fraser and (the currently injured) Callum Wilson, be convinced to take over so late in the campaign and with the club’s top-flight survival on the line?

“Even then a change would not guarantee a swift upturn in results. Rafael Benitez and Alan Shearer each took up the reins at St James’ Park around this time of the year and could not prevent the team slipping into the Championship.

“The worry is Newcastle may be stubbornly making the same mistakes yet again. At least Benitez remained at the club and mounted a successful promotion challenge the following year. Maybe a figure like Howe could do the same if the worst was to happen. It is hard to envisage Bruce staying on if the team do drop into the second tier.

“”For now, Newcastle’s fate is still in their own hands. Even so, the pressure to chisel results from games against the likes of Brighton, Burnley, Sheffield United and at Fulham on the final day may become unbearable.”

Daniel Taylor:

“If I was given a magic wand and the opportunity to fix Newcastle’s problems, it would be Mike Ashley I removed first and then managing director Lee Charnley, not Steve Bruce.

“I say that as the ghostwriter of Kevin Keegan’s autobiography – which was an eye-opener, to say the least, about what it can be like, as Newcastle’s manager, to work with these people.

“That doesn’t mean Bruce gets a free pass, though. He has been lucky in one respect because, if there were crowds in St James’ Park, it is clear the relationship is broken between him and many supporters.

“It is getting increasingly unpleasant at Newcastle but is there an obvious replacement who would pretty much guarantee survival? Not that I can see.”

Nick Miller:

“No.

“Even with the injuries they’ve had, there’s no way a team with their players should be quite this miserable, even with that couple of weeks where they played a bit more expansively and scored some goals.

“Bruce has always sought to work firmly within his perceived limitations at Newcastle and while that might be OK when it’s working, it means there isn’t much wiggle room for things to go wrong. Someone else could do so much more with them.”

Mark Carey / Tom Worville:

“In both 2017-18 and 2018-19, Benitez’s Newcastle won 12 games, finishing on 44 and 45 points respectively.

“They conceded 47 goals in the first season and 48 in the next. Benitez wasn’t pulling up any trees, but performances were solid enough to guarantee Premier League survival, creating a platform to build from.

“Under Bruce, that comfort has quickly been taken away.

“Defensively, things became extremely shaky last season. Lockdown was a saving grace, buying the club time to fix things at the back as the defence was getting progressively worse as the games passed. Looking at the league as a whole last season, no side conceded worse quality chances by xG than Newcastle.

“This season, there’s been an improvement at the back, with the club now ranking 16th in the Premier League by non-penalty xG conceded. But the issue now is that the woes on the attacking end haven’t changed.

“Last season, Bruce’s side had the second-worst attack in the league, creating chances worth 0.95 non-penalty xG per game on average. Despite the investment in the summer in Callum Wilson, Ryan Fraser and Jamal Lewis they’re creating 0.85 xG per game, a drop-off in attacking performance and still ranked 19th by this measure.

“Overall, Bruce has overseen a side that was mid-table quality, and without tinkering with the personnel too much, has dragged them into a relegation dogfight by playing too conservatively.

“They’re right to stick with him to the end of the season but this is a team in dire need of a reboot.”

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