Few people involved in the footballing world, specifically the Premier League, would call Steve Bruce a “master tactician”.
The man himself has even gone so far in the past as to admit that he “doesn’t do tactics”. For those watching modern day football, where ‘Pep-style’ technical play has emerged, this admission is nothing short of alarming.
A striking graphic emerged over the weekend displaying Newcastle United’s average formation this season. As shown, it displays an absolute lack of forward-thinking football, and at any one time nearly every player is in their own half.
Coupled with the frightening statistics displayed during the Newcastle v Chelsea game at the weekend- Newcastle sit 20th in the league for total shots, touches in the opposition box and passes into the final third. This highlights a damning need for a change in the way Newcastle United play.
At the weekend Chelsea came to St James’ Park, by their own admission a “bogey” ground where results are unpredictable, and outplayed Newcastle United in every sense of the word.
With their main (and only reliable, respectively) striker out, Newcastle United barely got out of the starting blocks having only one shot on target and 29% possession. Without Callum Wilson, Newcastle have barely any threat going forward at all, unless you include Miguel Almiron who was benched, brought on at 65 minutes and created the only attacking threat.
This Bruce-style defensive football, which quite frankly barely includes any counter attacking nature, is simply not working- Newcastle have faced the most shots in the league up to this point and Karl Darlow has made the most saves.
The media like to portray Bruce as a great man who is “doing a good job” at Newcastle United. They sit 15th in the league, and have two 2-0 losses back to back, but prior to this beat a very strong Everton side 2-1 and drew with another strong Wolves team.
These types of unexpected results are what is giving the media, and other football fans at that, a false view on Bruce’s capability as a Premier League manager.
His managerial win rate at Newcastle United so far is 30% and for a team who wants to progress this is simply not acceptable. Especially when you take transfers under Bruce’s tenure on board; around £95m spent in his 18 months as manager and no progression being made as a team.
The football is extremely frustrating to watch and creative players like Saint-Maximin, who is regarded as one of the most exciting prospects in recent Newcastle United history, are being pulled back almost to wing backs as the lines are too deep.
Formations are being kept the same game to game despite different challenges faced from completely different teams which means our opposition have already found us out before the game kicks off.
With the emergence of attacking football this season which has allowed teams like Aston Villa, Everton and Leicester to surprise us all, this sitting back style of play will leave Newcastle United in very hot water unless something is done quickly.
Newcastle fans aren’t deluded enough to solely blame Bruce for this adversity but he IS in charge of the team selection and tactics and as a symptom of the Mike Ashley disease, this needs to be treated before it’s too late for Newcastle United.