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Sunday, September 26, 2021

Is Steve Bruce good enough to ensure Newcastle United survive?

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Being a Newcastle United fan is often a tough pill to swallow. The takeover looked to reignite some optimism on Tyneside with jovial Tweets of Mbappé transfer rumours lingering around Tyneside. Now the Magpies’ deal looks to have slipped through the cracks and the pantomime villain Mike Ashley looks set to continue to rule with an iron fist, meaning little investment, and net profit over new players. So far, manager Steve Bruce has made do with the little resources at his disposal and has kept Newcastle floating above water despite always leading English Premier League odds to be relegated. Here we attempt to break down the strengths and weaknesses of Bruce’s game.

Tactically inferior

Bruce simply lacks the tactical nous to guide Newcastle any further than the top half of the league. St James’ Park longs for stimulation, for attacking flair, and the brief cameos we saw from Allan Saint-Maximin pale in comparison to the Geordies’ expectations. Bruce often opts for a more defensive approach to games, playing long balls into the channels and relying on the individuality and flair of key players in decisive moments to create chances.

More often than not we’ve seen them set up with the intention of remaining in the game until the dying embers, hoping not to get beaten, then throwing everything at it for the final five minutes or springing a counter attack. It is simply not a reliable and consistent approach to an ever-adapting Premier League, and eventually Bruce will be found out.  For years Bruce has been scrutinised for his inability to move with the times, which ultimately cost him jobs with rivals Sunderland and Aston Villa. It is clear and obvious Bruce has to develop or be swept aside.

Threat of newly promoted sides

The new boys coming up from the Championship all look capable of survival this season which is something Bruce will be wary of. Newcastle will occasionally take points off the big teams but their main ticket to staying up is their record against the bottom clubs. If they fail to record enough wins against Watford, Norwich City and Brentford, whose quality of squad arguably outweighs Bruce’s, the Magpies could be pulled into a relegation scrap which could ultimately cost Bruce his job. In many people’s Premier League predictions Newcastle could be in for a long season.

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The Willock factor

If Bruce can permanently secure the signature of Joe Willock from Arsenal and build the team around the youngster, his chances of survival will be hugely bolstered. Bruce clearly rates him highly and would love a complete move to come to fruition, although other clubs such as A.S Monaco have also shown their desire to prise the 21-year-old away from the Emirates. Willock scored big goals during his time on loan last season including a late equaliser at Anfield. Bruce has said Willock’s decision is up to him, saying: “Joe has to decide. But there has to be a cut-off point where we can’t wait forever. Joe is our first choice and we are encouraged to keep bashing away. There is a cut off point though.”

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