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Opinion

Steve Bruce still doesn’t understand how he made it 5 wins in 26 Newcastle United games

1 month ago
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Nobody was more surprised than Steve Bruce that Newcastle United won at Leicester AND scored four goals.

Indeed, the NUFC Head Coach hasn’t slept since, as he tries to work out how and why it went right.

Leicester City could and should have still won, considering they had 25 shots, but Newcastle had a decent 14 attempts of their own and had the luck and quality at both ends of the pitch on the night.

So, what were the key reasons as to how Steve Bruce made it 5 wins in the last 26 Newcastle matches?

Well, I think four players stood out way ahead of the rest.

Callum Wilson is obviously one, getting back to full fitness and leading the line, scoring twice and playing well.

However, I think the other three key Newcastle players simply sum up how anything positive at NUFC is purely accidental where Steve Bruce is concerned.

Joe Willock 

I’m astonished when I see it claimed that it was Bruce’s brilliant footballing mind that we should credit for Joe Willock scoring three goals in three substitute appearances. That somehow limiting the midfielder to only 45 of the 270 minutes had actually helped him score against Tottenham, Liverpool and West Ham. As though it would have made him less likely to score in the matches if he had started the games and / or played more minutes.

Against Leicester, Joe Willock was a constant threat in his 77 minutes he was on the pitch, pressing the opposition and making runs forward. I can’t understand how we are supposed to think that Willock was more of a threat in the 10 or 11 minutes he was on the pitch against each of West Ham and Spurs, rather than if he’d had the full match to make runs forward and get in the box?

It was pure luck for Steve Bruce that Willock delivered goals in those three sub appearances. The same when ASM turned around the Burnley match after Bruce had set Newcastle up to fail, Willock never even got off the bench in that match.

The Arsenal loan player hadn’t started a match for seven weeks until recalled on Friday night at Leicester, his stats now read five goals in 715 minutes at an average of a goal every 143 minutes. If you have somebody who can be such a goal threat when breaking from midfield, you would always start them (especially if the alternatives are Shelvey, Hendrick etc) and encourage them to get forward at every opportunity, not have them on the bench most of the time.

Matt Ritchie

Steve Bruce had totally sidelined the popular winger this season, only six starts all season and a permanent fixture on the bench. Disgracefully, Bruce had even blamed Ritchie for his own shortcomings when he (Bruce) made a massive mess of a substitution when Newcastle led against Wolves, Bruce’s incompetence leading to an equaliser and Matt Ritchie calling him a coward.

Out of sheer desperation after the appalling performance and result at Brighton, Steve Bruce recalled the Scottish international.

Excellent again at Leicester, Ritchie has arguably been Newcastle’s best player over the course of these last six matches where Newcastle have picked up 11 points from 18, compared to only 9 points from a possible 39 in the previous 13 PL games where Bruce had left Ritchie out.

With Newcastle on such a woeful run, it is unbelievable that he left somebody with Ritchie’s character and fighting qualities out of the action.

Martin Dubravka

Another completely bizarre decision that once the number one keeper was fully fit, Steve Bruce refused to bring him back in for so long, despite Karl Darlow having clearly lost that adrenaline edge that had boosted his early season performances.

Bruce kept Martin Dubravka on the bench for fully 11 Premier League games, Newcastle losing eight, drawing one and winning two.

Back in the team, the last ten games with Dubravka have seen only two defeats, with three wins and five draws. Fair to say that many of those points would have been lost if not for the number one keeper playing. Friday night summing that up as he was far better than Schmeichel in key moments, a blinding save from Perez the pick of them and I would have fancied Dubravka to save the first two goals the Leicester keeper conceded.

As recently as the shocking West Brom 0-0 match in March, Steve Bruce was still playing Jeff Hendrick ahead of the likes of Ritchie, Murphy and Sean Longstaff. Add to that the refusal to leave out somebody like Joelinton, playing him week after week with next to no contribution to the team’s attacking threat.

Steve Bruce hasn’t got a clue as to what players, formation and plan he should employ in any match, we are all relying on sheer luck seeing him not mess it up. Only thanks to the individuals on the pitch have we seen rare moments of sunshine amongst the near permanent gloom, Friday at Leicester the prime example.

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)

Referee: Darren England

Newcastle United:

Dubravka, Murphy, Fernandez, Krafth, Dummett, Ritchie, Shelvey, Willock (Sean Longstaff 77), Almiron (Hendrick 88), Wilson, Saint-Maximin (Joelinton 84)

Unused Subs:

Gillespie, Lewis, Manquillo, Carroll, Clark, Gayle

Crowd: 00,000

(3 Positives and 3 Negatives from Friday night – Leicester 2 Newcastle 4 – Read HERE)

(Steve Bruce is a proud man ‘We are in the dizzying heights of 13th’ – Read HERE)

(Brendan Rodgers declares ‘We could have had 5 goals’ v Newcastle and points to missing star – Read HERE)

(Leicester 2 Newcastle 4 – Match ratings and comments on all the NUFC players – Read HERE)

(Leicester 2 Newcastle 4 – What have I just watched??? – Read HERE)

Leicester 2 Newcastle 4 – Instant NUFC fan/writer reaction to Friday’s 6 goal thriller – Read HERE)

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