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Opinion

Total blindspot for Newcastle United as this could send them down

1 month ago
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Newcastle United currently stand seventeenth in the Premier League.

At the moment Sheffield United look sure to go down.

Then  West Brom are knocking bets to join them but a very lucky win against Brighton has given them some small hope, which if they could follow up with a win on Thursday, would put them only six points behind Newcastle United, with the knowledge that three wins in a row with victory over NUFC would close the gap to only three points.

Anything, just about, is possible in a desperate relegation fight but West Brom winning three in a row after only two wins in their opening 25 Premier League games looks very unlikely.

So in reality, it is very much Fulham who Steve Bruce and his players are looking over their shoulders at.

This is how the Premier League table looked before any matches today (Wednesday 3 March 2021):

As you can see, if Scott Parker’s Fulham win at home to Tottenham on Thursday (tomorrow) night, they go above Newcastle United on goal difference.

Much has been made about Newcastle United struggling for goals this season and now Wilson (ten), ASM (two) and Almiron (four) injured, who have scored 16 of the paltry 27 PL goals scored by NUFC, Hendrick (two) the only other Newcastle player to score more than one this season.

However, I am amazed that so little has been made of what I would argue is a far bigger problem for Newcastle United and is a bit of a blindspot.

These are the goals totals since Newcastle United came back up, goals scored and then goals conceded:

2017/18 – 39 and 47

2018/19 – 42 and 48

2019/20 – 38 and 58

2020/21 – 27 and 44 (from 26 games – if continues at same rate, the totals at end of this season will be 39 and 64).

When you look at these stats and the current Premier League table overall, one massive thing jumps out.

Newcastle United’s defensive record is an absolute nightmare, with the average goals conceded meaning by the end of the season it could be 17 more let in than Rafa’s first season, almost averaging an extra goal every match compared to 2017/18.

With a £100m+ net spend since Steve Bruce arrived at the club, most of that spent on attacking players, it is embarrassing that Bruce hasn’t managed to improve the goalscoring rate, in fact slightly worse than Rafa Benitez who had to rely mainly on loans and budget signings such as Joselu.

However, it is the defending that is unrecognisable from Rafa’s days.

Basically, with the same personnel Benitez had, plus £15m spending on Jamal Lewis, Steve Bruce has turned Newcastle United into the second worst defence in the entire division, only West Brom have conceded more.

The 27 goals scored total is woeful (especially with money spent etc etc) but actually, with 26 games played, Newcastle are top scorers in the bottom six!

You look at the defensive mess that Steve Bruce is presiding over and quite astonishing, especially how little the media make of it. Only four Premier League clean sheets in 26 games this season and only one clean sheet in the last 12 matches (all competitions). Indeed, in those last twelve matches, in nine of the twelve Newcastle United conceded two or more goals, this is a serious problem.

Particularly so when we return to the problem Newcastle United have in scoring goals, in the last 16 games (all competitions) Newcastle have failed to score at all in eight of them and only twice in the 16 have they scored more than one goal – they the only two matches Newcastle United have managed to win of the 16 (3-2 Southampton and 2-0 Everton).

Only eight times in 26 PL matches have Newcastle scored more than one goal (three goals on two occasions and two goals in six of them).

Bottom line is that as things stand, Newcastle United very rarely score more than one goal (twice in last sixteen) and usually concede at least two (in nine of the last twelve matches).

Pretty much every article you are reading this week in the build up to the West Brom match, is based on who should play so that Newcastle have the best chance of scoring goals. Well, the sad reality is that they can go through every permutation as many times as they like and you get the same answer, this is a team that has very very few goals in it, in the absence of Almiron, ASM and especially Wilson.

It is a horrific situation we see before us and Steve Bruce is absolutely useless BUT we are stuck with him and I just hope he is pragmatic in setting his team up on Sunday.

I think the team has to be selected and set up on the basis of what gives the best chance of a clean sheet and then as second priority trying to sneak a goal or more. That for me means that if he is fit enough, which it appears he is, Fernandez has to play alongside Clark and Lascelles with Newcastle United reverting, at least temporarily, to a back five.

It is pure fantasy, especially with Bruce in charge, to think a team could be set up on Sunday that would have a great chance of scoring a few.

With Villa at home and Brighton away to follow, before the two weeks international break, that back five and safety first approach must continue to be used and try to grind out a couple of draws and hopefully snatch a 1-0 win from one of them.

Obviously if / when Callum Wilson and others to an extent, are back in April, Newcastle United can hopefully put a bit more emphasis on attack, because then it is more worthwhile when you have better players / finishers to go in the attacking third.

It wouldn’t be pretty but then we are used to that for most of this season and now it is all about survival, if the defending doesn’t get sorted then massive problems ahead in these remaining twelve PL matches.

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