If there’s one thing I noticed when I watched Newcastle United last weekend, it’s that the club has talent on its roster. Joelinton proved himself worthy of being upfront, and while he couldn’t bury any chances, he certainly managed to capitalize on what was given to him. That matters.
Miguel Almiron also had proven himself the best player on the squad. By far. He created chances, caused trouble for Arsenal’s defense, and was an overall nightmare in the midfield. For a smaller player, he’s not afraid of the physicality, and while that could be a concern for injury, it’s helping Newcastle.
That match disappointed me in the end when I saw a confused Jetro Willems play in the wrong position and ultimately led to Arsenal’s winning goal, which by the way was pretty nice. And the blame for the mistake, while Willems deserves some, actually has been going to the person it should be: Steve Bruce.
The manager failed to communicate properly exactly what he wanted Willems to do. Sure, mistakes are made, and players make serious blunders, but Willems location on the pitch was a managerial problem, and involved a player who had no direction and was confused about what his job was.
There were decisions made by Bruce that didn’t make sense. The location of players on the pitch, the make up of the bench (three defenders to cover for two?) as well as tactical decisions made in the second half to overcome a goal deficit.
But the thing is Newcastle United impressed me in that first match despite the shortcomings. Because the shortcomings come from Steve Bruce. The one good thing about Steve Bruce is he isn’t as strict as Rafa Benitez is when it comes to assignments. The players have a bit more freedom to create their own space, and be where they feel they need to be. And to be quite frank, we’re going to need the players to make their own decisions if we’re going to stay up, because I have less faith that Steve Bruce can make the right tactical and positional decisions to lead the club to victory.
Newcastle United will be fine this season. In fact, we may do better than I originally predicted. But it will be because of the players, and in spite of the man leading them all.