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Opinion

If only Steve Bruce had had his best attacking players available this season…Oh!!

2 months ago
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Steve Bruce has been very successful this season.

Obviously I don’t mean on the pitch, that has been a tough watch for Newcastle fans.

Instead, I mean the success Steve Bruce has had in getting his messages out in the media, his excuses for the rubbish we have seen in the 2020/21 season so far.

Excuses to try and justify only two wins in seventeen games, only eleven victories in the past 46 Premier League matches going back as far as Christmas 2019, only West Brom conceding more goals, only two clubs outside the bottom three having scored fewer goals.

Excuses as to why Newcastle United will finally sink into the bottom three on Thursday night if Fulham win at home to Tottenham.

Steve Bruce has been especially keen recently to bemoan the ‘fact’ that so rarely this season has he been able to field his best attacking players.

These are the seven main attacking options that Steve Bruce has in this 2020/21 Newcastle United squad.

This has been their availability so far this season in the 26 PL matches played so far.

The first figure is how many times a player has been named in the NUFC first team squad (either starting or on the bench) for Premier League matches, then how many actual appearances in total they have made, with in brackets the split between starts and sub appearances:

26 Miguel Almiron 24 (18 + 6)

25 Andy Carroll 14 (4 + 10)

22 Callum Wilson 21 (21 + 0)

17 Ryan Fraser 15 (6 + 9)

15 Dwight Gayle 9 (1 + 8)

16 Allan Saint-Maximin 16 (12 + 4)

26 Joelinton 20 (14 + 6)

Counting the above up, I make it that out of a total of 182 (7 x 26) possible inclusions in the Premier League matchday squads, the seven players above were included a combined 147 times. On average, only five times each were any of these seven not available for the matchday squads.

Obviously some available more than others but Miguel Almiron in all 26 PL matchday squads, Joelinton the same, Andy Carroll in 25 of the 26, Callum Wilson in 22 of the first 23, then Fraser (17), Gayle (15) and ASM (16) in around two thirds of the NUFC PL squads.

Can any of you really take seriously Steve Bruce making out that he is hard done this season, in terms of the attacking options that have been available?

What I think you most definitely can question, is how he has used / misused the attacking options he has had available to him.

I want to take you back to 12 January 2021, Newcastle United facing a team who in their last 20 Premier League matches had lost eighteen and got two draws…zero wins. Some seven months with not a single win and only two draws as very very small consolations.

If ever there was an opposition that needed to be attacked from the first whistle, with as many forward thinking players on the pitch as possible, it was this particular game.

This is the team that Steve Bruce picked against Sheffield United including substitutions made, then the unused subs:

Sheffield United 1 Newcastle United 0:

Darlow, Yedlin (Murphy 84), Schar, Fernandez (Carroll 77), Clark, Dummett (Ritchie 74), Hayden, Hendrick, Sean Longstaff, Fraser, Wilson (Unused subs) Dubravka, M Longstaff,  Joelinton, Gayle, Almiron, Anderson

His mates who are journalists and pundits go to the most extraordinary lengths to defend Steve Bruce, inventing incredible alternative reasons as to why this Newcastle United season is such a mess, yet appear to deliberately ignore the most obvious…

Playing against by far the worst team in the Premier League who would have had zero confidence, Steve Bruce selected a back five and three defensive midfielders, with Callum Wilson up front and only one other player in Fraser, who wanted to get forward.

The outcome was so predictable, it allowed Sheffield United to totally dominate, control the game, build confidence and go on to win. Fraser getting a red card and Newcastle having to play the second half with ten men certainly didn’t help BUT if attacking from the start, I can’t believe it wouldn’t have been a different story.

Steve Bruce chose to leave out Almiron, Carroll, Gayle and Joelinton, of those only Carroll (13 minutes) got on the pitch.

Absolutely clueless. Steve Bruce signed five of these seven attacking players and of the other two, has given Almiron rave reviews this season and always talked up Dwight Gayle.

Even if you think some of these players aren’t good enough, it is Steve Bruce who has chose to sign and keep hold of them. If he doesn’t rate certain players, such as say Dwight Gayle, why not move him (and others) on and use the money to bring in somebody that Steve Bruce would want to play?

Gayle scored four goals in his last eight PL appearances last season. Yet this time has only played a total of 171 PL minutes, rarely even given many minutes from the bench, Wilson gets injured and then suddenly Gayle is thrown into his first PL start (against Chelsea) the other week, his first one for seven months.

Steve Bruce ran Callum Wilson into the ground, often in hopeless causes, at the same time starving the likes of Gayle of time on the pitch.

It sums up as well what a mess Ashley and Bruce have made between them, when Newcastle United are said to be missing their three best attacking options (Wilson, Almiron, ASM) against West Brom and yet the £40m record signing who is a striker, isn’t even an automatic choice!

I wouldn’t say Steve Bruce has had an embarrassment of riches this season in attacking areas BUT I would say that with what he’d had available, NUFC should have been nowhere near a relegation spot.

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