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Opinion

A six pointer already for Steve Bruce and Newcastle United

2 weeks ago
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It is Wolves v Newcastle up next, Steve Bruce and his Newcastle United side travel to the Midlands and face a side on a relative high.

Despite Wolves having just 43% possession at St Mary’s against Southampton, Bruno Lage and his men managed to come away superior by taking all three points in what you could say, snatch and grab fashion.

Raul Jimenez aided his Wolves side to a 1-0 victory with a very well taken goal, ending his ten month goal drought. Which is most definitely a warning sign for the Magpies as the Mexican will be looking to get his goal scoring form of the past back on track.

Wolves have been successful against both Watford at Vicarage Road and Southampton at St Mary’s, however, they haven’t been able to pick up three points on their own turf as of yet this campaign.

Lage and his team will see Saturday as the ideal chance to put this right against a Newcastle side who, let’s face it, are under pressure.

Despite the North East side winless start to the Premier League season, manager Steve Bruce seems to be in high spirits and believes his side are on the right track.

“I thought the performance itself was terrific and I think we’ve been playing OK and done OK as of late and haven’t been able to get that first win. I was pleased with todays performance apart from the end product, which is unfortunately the most important part.”

Rather strangely, the last five meetings between Wolves and Newcastle in the top flight, have all ended in a 1-1 draw. Although there was a 4-0 pre-season hammering Wolves gave Newcastle in the Premier League Asia trophy in 2019.

This season, 1-1 draws are no stranger to this Newcastle side, as their previous two results have both ended in a goal apiece. Drawing 1-1 with Leeds United at St James Park and the same again at Watford last weekend.

With pressure mounting on both Bruce and the players, a draw (or worse!) of any sort you feel wouldn’t go down with the United fanbase too well, especially with the international break on the horizon.

If Newcastle are unable to pick up a win on Saturday, it would make it only seven wins in 37 games for the Magpies. A woeful statistic.

Steve Bruce had been reluctant at times to play a five at the back system in his two year tenure at the club.

With Matt Ritchie and Jacob Murphy adopting the wing-back roles, this season there has been criticism regarding the two natural wingers playing in a role which requires defensive attributes.

The back end of last season, saw the two players relish the role, with Newcastle picking up five wins in their last nine games of 2020/21.

Saying that, the start of this season has been a different story as both players have been seen to be defensively weak. This comes into conversation as Newcastle have conceded 14 goals already this season, the second highest in the division behind Norwich City.

During the home fixture against Leeds, Newcastle altered their system from a five at the back, to a four, giving the team more control of the midfield and overall a better chance at winning the game. This came to fruition as Bruce’s side found an equaliser through Allan Saint-Maximin at the end of the first half and improved the team all over the pitch. The Magpies ended the fixture with a total of 17 shots and seven of them on target (source – BBC Sport) and a feeling of regret, as the Magpies should have come away with all three points.

Graeme Jones and Steve Bruce came to terms with the four at the back system and approached the Watford game with the same mentality, setting up as a four at back with Javier Manquillo and Matt Ritchie sitting in the full-back positions. Again, this proved to give the side more attacking threat, especially on the break, where the side seem to be most dangerous. Newcastle ended the fixture with 20 attempts and six of them on target, scoring just the once.

Newcastle’s talisman, Allan Saint-Maximin, seems to have altered his game and is now the lone striker for his side. Hitting teams on the break is what Bruce is seemingly trying to achieve playing the Frenchman in the striker position. Joelinton on the other hand, has been playing off the left-hand side, where he was most effective for his previous club, Hoffenheim.

Newcastle’s now number seven, had arguably his best game in a Newcastle shirt, winning the most aerial duals in the league this past weekend [12]. His hold up play, first touch, awareness and strength on the ball all seemed to be improved. With Wilson out for the foreseeable future, this is the perfect time for the Brazilian to find his feet in the Premier League.

Saturday’s fixture is vitally important for Newcastle United, a victory before the international break would at last give the fans something to cling onto, a win would make it eight in 37 for the Toon, I’m sure the fans deserve that, at least.

(Sam also has his very own NUFC site which you can visit here)

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