Bruce can’t look to Lady Luck anymore
This is a takeaway that Newcastle fans can probably see coming a mile away. It is however worth mentioning that a lot has changed since that famous smash-and-grab against Everton at Goodison Park last season where Florian Lejuene turned into prime Thierry Henry in stoppage time. As Bruce is probably finding out for *checks how many managerial positions Bruce has had* the eleventh time, luck has a way of balancing itself out. Smash and grab performances no longer seem to cut it for Newcastle. The desperate, against-the-run-of-play style hasn’t worked for a while now. Newcastle is beginning to form an identity and the attack has looked much more coherent as of late (shoutout Graeme Jones). However, the results have been slow to follow. As was the case against Crystal Palace, Newcastle had higher expected goals than their opposition on the day but didn’t pick up all three points.
More importantly, after a solid first half, Newcastle United was hit with a slew of injury scares. Almiron, then Allan Saint-Maximin, then Emil Krafth. Bruce will absolutely be hoping that all three of those players will remain available in the immediate future. After all, Almiron and Saint-Maximin are among Newcastle United’s most important attacking players. The sad reality is that the number of Newcastle players facing time away from the pitch seems to be increasing by the day. The saying “when it rains it pours” certainly does hold true.
With relegation a very real possibility now, Bruce must assume that Lady Luck is gone for good.
Newcastle midfield can do the job…. if it wants
Going into the game, our very own, Avi, was wise to point out that Newcastle might struggle with Wolves’ wingers and wing-backs. Ever since Newcastle switched to this 4-4-2 narrow diamond, there has been space in front of our full-backs for the opposition to exploit. It is perhaps the biggest flaw of this setup, and it is certainly accentuated by the quality of our full-back department. Generously excluding Bruce-era Manquillo, Newcastle’s full-backs aren’t without their defensive deficiencies. Emil Krafth isn’t the best 1v1 defender, and Jamal Lewis’ positioning has left a bit to be desired at times.
HOWEVER, before the onslaught of injuries (and subsequent poorly communicated substitutions) today, Newcastle looked pretty solid defensively. Hayden, Willock, and even Shelvey were doing a great job of providing cover on the wings. This midfield trio was doing a pretty good job of ensuring that Krafth and Lewis weren’t left stranded on an island. They did all of this while coordinating the counter-press high up the pitch. Nuno Espirito Santo’s side is full of technically gifted players, and it was delightful to see Newcastle keep Wolves from finding their attacking fluidity.
While things seemed to unravel in the second half after the substitutions, it bodes well for Newcastle going forward that the midfield trio is capable of finding the balance between counter-pressing high up and occupying the space in front of the full-backs.
Newcastle needs to understand the adage “act like you have been there before”
Yes, I am aware that this adage is usually meant to promote humility. I am also aware that Newcastle United has had too little success as of late to warrant a lesson in humility. What I mean by this takeaway is that Newcastle United must learn how to behave after taking a lead. What happened to Newcastle today after taking the lead has been entirely too common in the Bruce era. It’s almost as if Bruce’s Newcastle thinks they are playing in the golden goal-style overtime layout that we only see in FIFA video games nowadays.
After scoring a goal, NUFC grows far too complacent. The plan seems to go out the window as soon as the ball hits the net. That was certainly the case today. Right after Lascelles found the net, Newcastle dropped deep and looked far too interested in defending the lead against an in-form Wolves side. They let Wolves get back in the game. By the time Wolves got their goal, Newcastle’s momentum going forward was long gone, and Wolves looked favorites to seize all three points. In fact, as the match entered stoppage time, it looked almost as if Wolves were the ones in 17th place, fighting to avoid relegation.
With so few points keeping Newcastle out of the relegation zone, there is absolutely no excuse for switching-off mentally after taking a lead. Newcastle needs to maintain its cutting edge in those instances because they certainly are not in the position to dangle points in front of their opponents.