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Opinion

Kevin Phillips misses key Steve Bruce factors in comments on Newcastle United defenders

1 week ago
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Kevin Phillips has been talking about the situation at St James Park.

The problems with this Newcastle United team.

In particular, the defence…according to the former Mackem striker.

This is what he has had to say and following that, where he is going wrong in his analysis…

Kevin Phillips talking to Football Insider:

“It’s not good enough, I look at that back four and I think, is that a Premier League back four?

“It’s not for me.

“It’s a back four which will continually concede chances in my opinion.

“So I’m not surprised to see that they still haven’t kept a clean sheet this season.

“I play golf with a Newcastle supporter and he’s frustrated.

“The place is low at the moment. Confidence isn’t high.

“The amount of goals they are conceding is worrying.

“You cannot keep conceding goals at that level because it drains the life out of you.

“It puts too much pressure on the forward players.

“It is a tough one for Steve Bruce.

“They need to go into the market in January and strengthen their defence because it does not look good at the moment.”

Well, you can’t argue that it is anything but a shambles, that Newcastle United have conceded 16 goals in only seven Premier League games this season.

The players that Steve Bruce has been using in defence this season, are the likes of Manquillo, Murphy, Ritchie, Fernandez, Lascelles, Clark, Schar and Hayden.

This is hardly a new issue though, as it has been a problem getting ever worse these last 27 months, with 58 goals conceded in 2019/20, then 62 goals in 2020/21, n0w 16 goals in 7 (over a full season that average would lead to around 87 conceded).

Funnily enough though, these exact same players were involved in a defence / team that conceded only 47 goals in 2017/18 and 48 goals in 2018/19.

How bizarre, you would almost think that it mattered which manager (or head coach) was responsible for organising and training the defence, as well as indeed, those in front of them.

In those two Rafa Benitez seasons, only six Premier League clubs each time let in less goals. Yet Kevin Phillips says that now these same players are not a ‘Premier League back four’, it is almost as though Steve Bruce hasn’t got a clue what he is doing and is powerless to stop the professionally trained and disciplined Rafa Benitez unit disintegrating into an uncoordinated dispirited mess.

Another interesting point from Kevin Phillips, is that he sees the answer simply through Steve Bruce being allowed to sign new players in January. Well nobody would be against investment in better players via the transfer market BUT…have a look at the players involved this past weekend against Wolves in the latest defeat.

Darlow, Manquillo (Murphy 70), Fernandez, Clark, Ritchie, Sean Longstaff, Hayden, Almiron (Gayle 77), Willock (Hendrick 36), Saint-Maximin, Joelinton (Unused Subs: Gillespie, Schar, Lewis, Krafth, Fraser, Anderson)

Steve Bruce has been allowed to make 14 senior (permanent and temporary) signings in his 27 months so far, with over £160m spent on transfer fees, a net spend of £125m+, plus also high wage free transfers – a completely different scenario to the shockingly feeble zero net spend ‘backing’ Rafa Benitez got from Ashley.

Of the 14 signings Steve Bruce has made, only three of them were in the starting eleven, whereas five Bruce signings were amongst the substitutes.

In particular, I would draw your attention to the fact that Steve Bruce was allowed to spend £20m on a whole new full-back combination, putting each of the pair into the team when signed, yet now the pair are totally sidelined.

Emil Krafth has only started 21 Premier League games these past two years since September 2019, with many of those as an emergency centre-back. Whilst Jamal Lewis hasn’t made a single Premier League start for eight months and in that time since February 2021 has played only 12 minutes of PL football from the bench.

So just to put that into context, the defending has been getting progressively worse and accelerated dramatically in recent times, yet Steve Bruce rates his own signings so low, he doesn’t trust £5m Emil Krafth or £15m Jamal Lewis at all.

Instead relying on players Rafa Benitez signed originally to get Newcastle out of the Championship, as well as other budget signings, which he (Rafa) then moulded into such a brilliantly effective unit.

Nobody needs convincing that extra quality needs to be added to this Newcastle United squad BUT overwhelmingly, the massive / only top priority is bringing in a decent manager.

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