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Opinion

Steve Bruce rewriting history with injury excuses

1 month ago
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Steve Bruce and his friends and family seem to have settled on injuries to big players (Callum Wilson and Allan Saint-Maximin) as the sole reason that Newcastle United have struggled this season.

So I thought I would compare the attacking talent Newcastle had available in 2019/20, to this current 2020/21 season.

The stats below showing the availability of players as well as how often they were used, not always the same thing.

Joelinton

Last season named in all 38 PL matchday squads, making 32 starts and 6 appearances as a sub.

This season so far, named in all 35 PL matchday squads, making 21 starts and 8 appearances as a sub.

So Joelinton has played less. When you consider those games went mostly to Wilson, this is a good thing.

Allan Saint-Maximin

Last season named in 27 PL matchday squads, making 23 starts and 3 appearances as a sub.

This season so far, named in 22 PL matchday squads, making 16 starts and 6 appearances as a sub.

This season will end with 19 starts and 6 sub appearances assuming no injuries in last 3 games.

More or less the same.

Dwight Gayle

Last season named in 27 PL matchday squads, making 10 starts and 10 appearances as a sub.

This season so far, named in 24 PL matchday squads, making 4 starts and 11 appearances as a sub.

Not much difference but the extra games went Wilson’s way so improvement.

Miguel Almiron

Last season named in all 38 PL matchday squads, making 35 starts and 1 appearance as a sub.

This season so far, named in 33 PL matchday squads, making 25 starts and 6 appearances as a sub.

So it will end up  as 28 starts and 6 sub appearances, assuming he plays last 3.

Not much difference, although out of position so wasted generally.

Andy Carroll

Last season named in 32 PL matchday squads, making 4 starts and 15 appearances as a sub.

This season so far, named in 32 PL matchday squads, making 4 starts and 13 appearances as a sub.

Almost identical.

I need to start comparing different players now as the others only played one season:

Muto v Willock

Last season, Yoshinoro Muto named in 17 PL matchday squads, making 2 starts and 6 appearances as a sub.

This season so far, Joe Willock named in 12 PL matchday squads, making 8 starts and 3 appearances as a sub.

Improvement

Atsu v Fraser

Last season, Christian Atsu named in 28 PL matchday squads, making 6 starts and 13 appearances as a sub.

This season so far, Ryan Fraser named in 20 PL matchday squads, making 9 starts and 9 appearances as a sub.

Improvement

Callum Wilson

However, the biggest difference is that we have had Wilson, named in 27 squads with 23 starts and 3 sub appearances, Callum Wilson coming in and playing in those 26 games without losing anybody.

Other injuries to consider

The defenders

I’d say Clark, Schar, Lascelles, Fernandez, Dummett and Lejeune are all of a similar quality so it doesn’t make much difference which ones play. Even Hayden came in with man of match performances when used the occasional time, so you can’t complain.

Goalkeepers

Dubravka is great but Darlow got 10+ man of matches and would have been player of season if he had kept his place, so again you can’t complain.

The big two injuries Steve Bruce has pinned his excuses on for the losing run, are Wilson and ASM. The worst run we had was from the first to the second of the two Leeds matches, the 5-2 loss (16 December 2020) and the 2-1 loss (26 January 2021) a day or two after Jones was appointed.

Steve Bruce making claims that when the big players are fit, the results will improve etc, but of those 11 games between and including the Leeds matches where we lost nine and didn’t win any (W0 D2 L9) Callum Wilson started nine of them, was on the bench for one, as well as rested for the Arsenal cup game.

In the two most shocking games Newcastle United lost, the ones against Sheff Utd and Brentford Reserves, Steve Bruce had Wilson, Almiron and Fraser all available, so there can be no excuses.

Steve Bruce is trying to paint the narrative that Wilson’s injury coincided with most of our defeats and if he (Wilson) and ASM had been fit, Newcastle United would be top ten….but as I’ve detailed, Callum Wilson was there the whole time through our worst run.

Then when Wilson did actually not start the 10 games following the Southampton injury, we only lost to Chelsea, Man Utd and Brighton, picking up 11 points in those 10 games. The facts appearing to suggest that we didn’t suffer that badly while Callum was out.

Leaving Steve Bruce with one excuse – ASM – who he planned to drop anyway (before Covid ensured he was left out) for Crystal Palace (Newcastle’s tenth Premier League game of the campaign) after a very poor first quarter of the season, being played as a second striker. Bruce appears to be saying ‘Look, if Saint-Maximin isn’t playing there’s no point, everybody else is rubbish and we don’t have any other game plan so it’s not my fault if we lose 9 out of 11 games, or get beat by Brentford Reserves, or park the bus vs Sheff Utd.’

You have to ask that if it’s just as simple as relying on Allan Saint-Maximin, what does Steve Bruce actually do?

Can he take any credit at all?

And what about all the other teams with injuries?

Almost every team has been affected this season.

Conclusion

This season overall, the player quality / availability at Newcastle United’s disposal has been far superior to last season, so there should be no excuses for finishing anything other than quite a bit higher than we did last year. You can in particular point to the huge improvement of Wilson being added.

You have to remember we also once finished 10th, largely with the same defence and midfield, but with Joselu up front. Having ASM injured for three months (not five) doesn’t mean the Head Coach and the rest of this expensive squad should be celebrating the miracle of surviving, due to the Premier League having three abysmal teams this year.

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