The statisticians claim Newcastle United will be found out eventually, while others say luck will catch up with Steve Bruce’s side.
The negativity surrounding the club is boiling uncontrollably, the football isn’t attractive by any means but Newcastle are closer to the European places than the relegation zone. Supporters accepted the unattractive football under Rafael Benitez because the club were picking up points. Under Bruce it is not accepted, despite their position in the league.
There is no doubting that Benitez worked wonders at Newcastle, he deserved all the credit he received from supporters. Should Bruce guide Newcastle to a top ten finish and reach the latter stages of the FA Cup, surely he deserves to be afforded that same credit.
Bruce took charge of Newcastle three weeks before the start of the season. With Ayoze Perez, Salomon Rondon and Mo Diame all leaving the club, Bruce had an almighty rebuilding job on his hands. There a very few managers that would walk into such circumstances.
It feels as though there is still a toxic atmosphere on Tyneside, after playing out a goalless draw against bottom of the table, Norwich City, there were yet more calls for a change in formation. Bruce has been cautious when it comes to changing formation, the occasions he has changed to a back four, Newcastle have been beaten comfortably. It puts Bruce in a difficult position, were he to change to a back four and Newcastle were to be beaten comfortably yet again, there would be people questioning the change. Very much a case of ‘Damned if you do, damned if you don’t’ scenario for Bruce.
Newcastle have been ravaged by injuries this season, yet they have still managed to grind out results. Bruce has to be given time to put his own stamp on this Newcastle side, it was never going to be a quick fix, especially after losing their top scorers in Rondon and Perez.
Would supporters be happier if Newcastle were more attractive to watch, but failed to pick up as many points? Doubtful, as it would mean another relegation battle. The fact of the matter is, Bruce is making the most of what he has. He’s delivered on his promise to take the cups seriously, Bruce has also given younger players a chance to shine, introducing Matty Longstaff into the first team.
There is a reason Bruce sets Newcastle up in the way that he does, it’s because the players are a lot more comfortable in that formation, as a result it puts more points on the board.
Benitez liked to play politics, he said his side were Championship quality a number of times, in order to get Mike Ashley to spend. Bruce has a different approach, especially when it comes to man management. There is a feeling that the players are a lot happier with Bruce, there’s more positivity within the group.
Bruce will always have critics but he’s been in the game long enough to cope with that. Too many have forgotten just how bad things were last summer, for Bruce to come in and get the team in this position is a fantastic achievement. The job is by no means finished but Newcastle can look up rather than over their shoulders. The the aim for Newcastle now will be to break into the top half of the table.