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Opinion

Steve Bruce claim is a massive reality check for Newcastle United fans

1 month ago
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Steve Bruce was a happy and relieved man on Friday night.

Newcastle’s win at Leicester effectively making the club safe from relegation (Fulham can mathematically still catch Newcastle but in the real world it won’t / can’t happen, as it would need the Cottagers to win all four and NUFC to lose all three).

It has been a long time coming but achieved with only three games left to go, United crawling over the line mainly due to the dismal failure of the three at the very bottom to compete this season.

Friday’s 4-2 victory was as welcome as it was unexpected.

However, in this strangest of seasons it was maybe not so unexpected, not when this was a Leicester side that looked very much more like the one that had lost seven of seventeen home PL matches, rather than the Leicester team that sits in the top four.

Reading comments from Leicester fans before and after the match, they most definitely weren’t surprised at how Friday night played out. They clearly think the wheels have been falling off for some time and that only luck and the failings of others have helped maintain their top four position.

For the watching Newcastle fans, they saw their team play as well, as Leicester played bad. The home side lethargic and generous with their gifts of possession and wasteful with chances, whilst Newcastle looked alert and full of purpose, with great finishing from the likes of Wilson and Willock.

For Steve Bruce, this performance was as good as any other of the 73 Premier League matches he has overseen so far, particularly the first half.

I don’t want to put a dampener on things and I did enjoy the match, certainly compared to the rubbish we’ve watched 90% of the time this season, but it was also a bit of a reality check.

Yes I thought Newcastle played well but when you look at the stats and indeed the highlight of the game, it was a match that could have gone either way, indeed the stats very much point to Leicester having blown it.

The reality was that on the day Newcastle’s players turned up at both ends of the pitch and Leicester’s largely didn’t. Martin Dubravka was superb and made some key saves, especially that Perez one that would have made it 4-3 and a very uncomfortable final five minutes, I would also have bet on him saving the first two that Schmeichel let in.

As for finishing, Willock and Wilson were lethal, Paul Dummett as well!

The reality is though that the stats (see below) show that Newcastle scored with two of their three efforts on target in the first half, Leicester failing to beat Dubravka with their four on target before the break. After the break Newcastle scored two out of three on target whilst Leicester improved with netting two of their five on target.

On all stats though Leicester were superior apart from the finishing, a massive 25 shots to Newcastle’s 14, more corners, more possession and so on.

So I agree with Steve Bruce, this really was as good as it has got under him BUT what a low bar!

Despite Leicester’s superiority across all the stats you can still of course make a case for Newcastle deserving their win and I think overall we definitely did. However, it wasn’t an overwhelming win with NUFC totally outplaying the opposition, it was a story of taking and saving chances in key moments.

Looking back over these 22 months of Steve Bruce, I struggle to think of many (any?) Premier League games where Newcastle have completely outplayed the opposition over a full 90 minutes and had a scoreline to reflect that as well, certainly not against eleven men.

I think the 4-1 at soon to be relegated Bournemouth last season, is pretty much the only one where I thought it was a complete domination and 90 minute performance.

There have been half matches such as away at West Ham last season but then in the second half they almost threw it away. Even after going 4-0 up with everything falling away, Steve Bruce and his players almost looked set to give it away at the King Power.

I don’t think it is all doom and gloom but Newcastle United do really have to lift their performances above what we see week in week out.

The thing is, I think we do have a squad of players who are more than capable of putting in a significant number of convincing wins, if allowed to do so. Steve Bruce is massively holding them back and prime examples are games since the turn of the year such as against woeful dispirited on the way down opposition such as Sheffield United and West Brom, where shockingly negative tactics were employed by Bruce, allowing the Blades to dominate and win despite having eighteen defeats and two draws in their previous twenty PL games, then a fortunate point in a dreadful goalless draw at the Hawthorns.

Newcastle United could and should be so much better than that with these players, even under Mike Ashley, this is on Steve Bruce who despite Friday night, is still sitting on a woeful record of only five wins in the last twenty six games including fourteen defeats.

Steve Bruce reflecting on Leicester 2 Newcastle 4:

“In the first half, I think that’s probably as good as we’ve played in the couple of years I’ve been here.

Especially given the quality of the opposition we were up against.

“We’ve had some decent performances, but considering who we were playing, the magnitude of the game and how we went about it, that first half in particular, I really enjoyed watching us play.

“Playing on the counter-attack in that way, it worked extremely well.”

Stats from BBC Sport:

Leicester 2 Newcastle 4 – Friday 7 May 8pm

Goals:

Newcastle:

Willock 22, Dummett 34, Wilson 64, 73

Leicester:

80 Albrighton, 87 Iheanacho

(Half-time stats in brackets)

Possession was Leicester 69% (67%) Newcastle 31% (33%)

Total shots were Leicester 25 (7)  Newcastle 14 (9)

Shots on target were Leicester 9 (4) Newcastle 6 (3)

Corners were Leicester 9 (2) Newcastle 6 (5)

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