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Opinion

Steve Bruce makes astonishing admission

1 month ago
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It was an ‘interesting’ Steve Bruce team selection on Sunday afternoon.

The Newcastle United Head Coach keeping eight players from the team that drew 1-1 with Wolves, then choosing to play Paul Dummett instead of Jamal Lewis, with Jeff Hendrick and Ryan Fraser replacing the injured Allan Saint-Maximin and Miguel Almiron.

This was arguably the most winnable game of the remaining matches, up against an all but already relegated West Brom who had been forced to play on Thursday against Everton in a rescheduled match. The Baggies went into the weekend having conceded 33 goals in only 14 Premier League home matches, 11 more than any other club.

Little wonder then that when the Steve Bruce team selection was announced at 11am on Sunday morning, there was a significant reaction from Newcastle fans on social media.

I didn’t see many (if any?) positive reactions to Bruce’s team choice, the overwhelming reaction being, where were the goals going to come from?

We all know the injury situation BUT surely you have to give yourself the best chance of scoring goals from the players available, you can’t only blame who wasn’t available.

Joelinton doesn’t even want to go into the box and has now scored three goals in 59 Premier League appearances.

The woeful Jeff Hendrick is rarely seen at all during games when he plays, never mind getting into the penalty area and being a goal threat. I read one statistic pre-match that claimed since the opening day of the season when he scored in the win over West Ham, Hendrick has only had one more shot on target in these last six months, when he scored in the 5-2 defeat by Leeds. Good news is that when Hendrick gets a shot on target he scores for Newcastle, bad news is that he only has a shot on target every six months.

Ryan Fraser got a rare start and that was all nice and fine, an excellent crosser of the ball if getting into positions, however, no strikers playing for him to service.

With Hayden and Shelvey such rare visitors to the opposition box, it seemed like the entire goal threat was relying on Joe Willock, somebody who had scored only one Premier League goal in his entire career before scoring on his debut for Newcastle against Southampton.

Steve Bruce speaking after the goalless draw against West Brom and asked why he hadn’t played any strikers, ignoring the likes of Andy Carroll and Dwight Gayle:

“If we had played Andy [Carroll] and Dwight [Gayle], then we would have to change the whole set-up, and I don’t think we had time to do that.

“We are getting used to playing in a certain way.

“It’s the way I want to play.

“Unfortunately, having come up with the system, we have been struck down by the loss of [Miguel] Almiron, Callum [Wilson] and Allan [Saint-Maximin].”

A quite astonishing admission from Steve Bruce.

Unable to play any strikers and increase the chances of scoring a goal against a team that had already conceded 33 at home, due to having only eight days since the last match to work on playing a different formation.

It might have been a different formation / set-up and some alternative personnel…but this felt very very similar to the extraordinary Sheffield United match. Playing against a team who had lost eighteen and drawn two of their last twenty PL matches, Steve Bruce played five defenders and three defensive midfielders, with only Callum Wilson and Ryan Fraser as players who could plausibly make something happen going forward.

Yesterday, I suppose you would have to say Ryan Fraser and Joe Willock were the ones Newcastle were totally reliant on, if realistically to have any chance of a goal.

I know they aren’t perfect…but how on earth could both Dwight Gayle and Andy Carroll be left out?

With eight days between matches, is Steve Bruce really claiming that he couldn’t prepare a team that could include one or both of them, so Newcastle could at least have some chance of a focus for their attacks?

As it happens they both got on the pitch and there was a strangeness about both substititions.

The useless commentators heralded Dwight Gayle replacing Jeff Hendrick with 33 minutes left, as a great attacking change by Steve Bruce. They didn’t though then comment as to why Bruce apparently had Gayle playing in midfield once he did get on the pitch.

As for the Andy Carroll one, even the dopes in the commentary box struggled to find a positive Steve Bruce spin on why the NUFC Head Coach was giving Carroll the final 20 seconds of the match. It was like something a manager would do who was trying to wind up a player, rather than getting a goal out of him.

Steve Bruce talks both of these strikers up on a frequent basis BUT hardly ever plays them, even minutes from the bench are sparse. Carroll (4) and Gayle (1) have made five PL starts between them this season but have been named on the bench a combined 37 times.

Despite the sheer lack of goals and then the Callum Wilson injury, Carroll has only played 12 minutes 20 seconds since starting at Arsenal on 18 January, a minute in the 2-1 defeat to Palace, 11 minutes in defeat at Chelsea, 20 seconds yesterday.

As for Gayle, Steve Bruce has only given him 204 minutes in the entire season. Since January, apart from a thankless lonely role up front at Chelsea, since January Dwight Gayle has only had 13 minutes in the Palace defeat and 11 minutes in the loss at Man Utd, plus his spell in midfield yesterday.

Going back to what Steve Bruce had to say after yesterday’s woeful match and lack of goal threat, he says there wasn’t time since the Wolves match to put together a different formation.

Hmmm, such an experienced manager of 23 years and he can’t even get his team in a 4-4-2 or alternative formation, that would allow at least one striker on the pitch and hopefully in the box?

When you join the dots it gets even better.

So we had these big blows of losing ASM and Almiron during that Wolves match, so obviously whatever happened there had to be some serious thought and work going into preparing for this West Brom match, an eight day gap to make sure you were in the best possible position to beat a terrible West Brom side that struggles to score and concedes loads.

If you recall, what actually happened was that Steve Bruce didn’t bother having the players in for training on three of the five days that followed Wolves a week past Saturday. No training on the Sunday, Monday and Thursday. Unbelievable.

Such a vital relegation six-pointer and that was the response.

Steve Bruce claimed that he had no choice because the players all needed a rest.

I don’t accept that.

I can’t believe that any other Premier League manager would have done what Steve Bruce did in his preparation for West Brom yesterday, claiming not enough time to put a different formation together to include a striker or two.

Maybe the odd player you might have given an extra day off to if they’d wanted it but just look at the majority of players who have played so little.

In the Premier League: Gayle one start all season, Carroll two starts since September, Fraser no starts for five weeks until yesterday, Krafth five starts these past three months, Willock seven starts all season, Dummett two starts all season until West Brom, That is before you get to the likes of the Longstaffs and others who have been pretty much totally sidelined.

As I say, maybe give the likes of Hayden and possibly the centre-backs a but extra rest but Steve Bruce and his coaches should have been on the training ground day in day out last week, working with the likes of Carroll, Gayle, Fraser, Willock and others, to create a bigger (some?) attacking threat in a formation that would suit the players available.

As ever, so much of the media so obliging with Steve Bruce, refusing to take him to task on such woeful management and excuses.

Stats from BBC Sport:

West Brom 0 Newcastle 0 – Sunday 7 March 12pm

Goals:

Newcastle:

West Brom:

(Half-time stats in brackets)

Possession was West Brom 53% (52%) Newcastle 47% (48%)

Total shots were West Brom 13 (5) Newcastle 9 (4)

Shots on target were West Brom 3 (3) Newcastle 5 (2)

Corners were West Brom 9 (3) Newcastle 7 (4)

Referee: Martin Atkinson

Newcastle United:

Dubravka, Krafth, Lascelles, Clark, Dummett, Willock, Hayden, Shelvey, Hendrick (Gayle 57), Fraser (Carroll 90+3), Joelinton

Unused Subs:

Darlow, Ritchie, Lewis, Fernandez, Manquillo, Murphy, S Longstaff

Crowd: 00,000

(BBC Sport comments from neutrals about Steve Bruce and Newcastle after West Brom – Says it all – Read HERE)

(3 Positives and 3 Negatives from West Brom 0 Newcastle 0 – Read HERE)

(Disastrous Fulham win at Liverpool exposes Steve Bruce negativity at West Brom – Read HERE)

(Steve Bruce ‘delighted’ as Newcastle United make it 2 wins in last 18 matches – Read HERE)

(Seismic shift in Premier League relegation odds – Newcastle now favourites to go down – Read HERE)

(West Brom 0 Newcastle 0 – Match ratings and comments on all the NUFC players – Read HERE)

(West Brom 0 Newcastle 0 – Instant NUFC fan/writer reaction to Sunday’s draw – Read HERE)

(I had zero expectations of a decent game and Steve Bruce took us below that – Read HERE)

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