I don’t know whether or not Steve Bruce is a tactical genius or the greatest tactical charlatan in the history of the game. But Newcastle United’s recent defeats to Manchester United and Everton showcase a larger problem within the club than just Allan Saint-Maximin’s absence.
It showcases the club’s inability to play quality football in general.
We’ve seen some good play from Joelinton recently, I’ll give him that, but his lack of goals is disturbing. In fact, the front three’s inability to be the offense the club needs them to be is downright disappointing. Newcastle’s wins have not come from Joelinton, Almiron, Shelvey, Carroll, or even really ASM. They’ve come from strong defending. And when that defending breaks down, as it did against both Manchester United and Everton, you see the club begin to lose games.
Possession is dismal, passing play is lacking, and the crosses are not generating the sort of offense needed for the club to actually win games.
And get this: the squad is talented! Jonjo Shelvey is quality, Miguel Almiron has been playing phenomenally, and Joelinton with confidence can be a solid player. Players used incorrectly, or in this case ineptness, the club is bound to suffer.
And this is the age old Steve Bruce vs Rafa Benitez argument. Sure, Bruce got the club off to a solid start, and the club is sitting relatively pretty above the relegation zone. But relegation is still a very real possibility at this point. Rafa Benitez’s style of football, while it annoyed some people, came with a sense of purpose. The tactics were not out of desperation but served a purpose.
Steve Bruce needs to find consistency within this squad, because despite the “stability” currently offered by the points on the board, the tactics suggest a very different reality that fans may come to realize.