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Opinion

Why is nobody calling out Steve Bruce on Joelinton?

4 weeks ago
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Steve Bruce arrived at Newcastle United on 17 July 2019, Joelinton followed him in six days later.

After having allowed Rafa Benitez zero net spend over his three years at St James Park, Mike Ashley suddenly allowing £40m, double Newcastle United’s existing transfer record, to be spent on the Brazilian.

Steve Bruce claimed that he had the final say on all signings, including Joelinton, which led to much amusement amongst fans as Mike Ashley then stated that the transfer had been arranged a considerable time before Bruce was even approached for the job.

We all knew that Steve Bruce only had the power to train and pick the team, so forgetting control of transfers, what happened once the then Head Coach was handed this £40m record signing?

Well, Steve Bruce declared that Newcastle United now had the ideal centre-forward, a natural goalscorer who would ensure that NUFC wouldn’t struggle for goals and would be perfect to lead the line.

In that first season, for both of them, Steve Bruce played Joelinton in every single Premier League match, 32 starts and six sub appearances. Playing as a centre-forward, the new number nine scored two PL goals and got two PL assists.

Steve Bruce was relentless, playing Joelinton match after match despite it clearly not working. It was like seeing a kid trying to force a square peg into a round hole, it was almost as though…Steve Bruce didn’t have a clue.

Bruce then declared that actually, Joelinton was nothing like a centre-forward, wasn’t a natural goalscorer and indeed, wasn’t even a player who really wanted to get into the penalty area. The then NUFC Head Coach declaring that the Brazilian was actually a natural for playing out wide.

So under Steve Bruce, Joelinton became more or less a winger a lot of the time, when selected…

That’s right, after relentlessly playing the Brazilian as a centre-forward game after game that first season, Bruce claimed to have now found the perfect position for the club’s record £40m signing and yet regularly left him out of the team.

In his second season, Joelinton only started 23 of the 38 PL matches, named on the bench 14 times. This season was more of the same, Bruce’s eight games saw Joelinton start only five of them, amongst the subs the other three. So in Steve Bruce’s final 46 PL matches at Newcastle, the club’s record signing only started 28 of them.

Steve Bruce did not have a clue what to do with him.

Joelinton at times showed the odd glimpse of what he might be capable of, some matches he played decent in patches, but certainly not enough to back up why Newcastle bought him, never mind paying £40m. I often wondered how Joelinton would have done if Rafa Benitez had stayed and he’d signed. Rafa had refused to give his assent to Mike Ashley paying £40m (Ashley insists it was £43m) for the then Hoffenheim player, insisting that if NUFC ever did consider buying him, they shouldn’t pay more than £20m at the very most. Despite Benitez having not been keen on signing Joelinton, I felt that if he had ended up with him, then the Spaniard would have found a way to get far more out of Joelinton than the clueless Steve Bruce.

Which kind of brings us to now.

Everybody, including pretty much all the pundits, as well as the Newcastle fans, are asking who is this new player that NUFC have signed…Joelinton.

The pundits are getting increasingly wowed by his performances. How has this happened, how is he suddenly playing so well, how is he suddenly looking so effective? Yet none of them are calling out Steve Bruce on this, somebody who managed the player for two years and three months.

Eddie Howe has been in charge for only eight matches and Joelinton has started in all eight. By the way, Graeme Jones got a lot of credit for not being Steve Bruce BUT once the hopeless NUFC Head Coach was belatedly sacked, Jones didn’t start the club’s record signing in any of his three games in charge. He didn’t have a clue either in terms of what to do with the striker….winger…???

Joelinton has got better and better in every game under Eddie Howe, looking fitter, more focussed, knows the job he is being asked to do…and excelling in it.

Just read the quotes below from Eddie Howe and Joelinton himself, after the exhilarating draw with Man Utd that Newcastle absolutely deserved to win. A Head Coach and player on the same page and mutual respect, there is a plan and whilst Bruce and Ashely have left a horrendously unbalanced squad, there is hope that with January additions, there could still be a way out of the mess that Howe and the new owners have inherited.

Just look at the stats for man of the match Joelinton last night in his new role under Eddie Howe.

Joelinton for Newcastle United against Man Utd in (stats via Sky Sports Statto) ’64 touches, completed 25/33 passes, 23 duels*, 11x possession won*, 2 blocks, 3 chances created*, 2 shots, 14 sprints (*all most/joint-most in match).

Only Emile Krafth (5) made more tackles than the Brazilian (4).

Newcastle United have now got the right man in the dugout and thanks to Eddie Howe, NUFC now have the right man bossing the midfield.

Anybody who claims that switching managers / head coaches at Newcastle United was pointless, is absolutely clueless. Eddie Howe is getting far more out of pretty much every player, particularly Joelinton. It isn’t Howe’s (or the new owners’) fault that he has had to start from such a desperate position and inheriting a squad with so many weaknesses.

The revival / rebuild has already started and with fair luck, players cutting out embarrassing mistakes which Eddie Howe can’t legislate for, plus some backing in January, this rebuild can only progress from here.

Joelinton speaking after the 1-1 draw against Man Utd:

“It’s a new position for me.

“I try to give everything for the team.

“Unlucky with the result but we can be proud of the game and we just keep playing.

“It was a hard game but we take the positives.

“I understand what the manager is asking from me on the pitch.

“Some days things don’t happen but today I tried to work and I hope to continue this and do good work and hope we can win the game and improve this situation.”

Eddie Howe on Joelinton after Monday night’s match:

“When we initially came in, we thought Joelinton would play as a number 10, a second striker.

“We went down to 10 men against Norwich and reshuffled and played him as an eight and he was brilliant defensively.

“He has a tactical understanding.

“From then on I thought he had technical capabilities.

“You’ve seen tonight he’s been brilliant defensively.

“His work rate and the amount of ground he covers is incredible.

“He’s a real team player.

“Such ability as well. He can only get better.”

Stats from BBC Sport:

Newcastle United 1 Manchester United 1  – Monday 27 December 8pm

(Half-time stats in brackets)

Goals:

Man Utd:

Cavani 71

Newcastle:

Saint-Maximin 7

Possession was Man Utd 70% (69%) Newcastle 30% (31%)

Total shots were Man Utd 13 (4) Newcastle 13 (4)

Shots on target were Man Utd 4 (1) Newcastle 8 (2)

Corners were Man Utd 4 (2) Newcastle 2 (1)

Referee: Craig Pawson

Crowd: 52,178 (3,000 Man Utd)

Newcastle United:

Dubravka, Krafth, Lascelles, Schar, Manquillo, Shelvey, Longstaff, Fraser (Almiron 75), Joelinton, Saint-Maximin (Gayle 83), Wilson (Murphy 45+6)

Unused Subs:

Woodman, Gillespie, Hendrick, Anderson, White

(Newcastle United 1 Manchester United 1 – Match ratings and comments on all NUFC players – Read HERE)

(Eddie Howe on injuries, possible postponement and simply…’We deserved to win’ – Read HERE)

(Ralf Rangnick not happy after lucky Manchester United second best to Newcastle United – Read HERE)

(Newcastle United 1 Manchester United 1 – Instant NUFC fan/writer reaction to Monday’s draw – Read HERE)

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