Create an identity, fix the defence and plan for January: the SEVEN things Steve Bruce's replacement must do at Newcastle United

The new Newcastle United manager will have a lot on their plate when they take charge.

By Joe Buck
Thursday, 21st October 2021, 12:30 pm

Newcastle sit just one spot off bottom of the Premier League table, and defeat to Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday was a worrying reminder of their struggles so far this season.

Following Steve Bruce’s sacking as Newcastle manager yesterday, whoever the new owners decide to appoint at St James’s Park will have a tough job on their hands when they start the job.

Here, we have listed seven things the new Newcastle United manager must do if they are to be a success in their first few months in charge:

Newcastle United are searching for their new manager following the departure of Steve Bruce (Photo by PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images)

Fix the defence

Newcastle’s struggles this season have largely been down to their leaky defence and a clean-sheet in the league still eludes them.

Their attacking stats this season are comparable with mid-table sides but much like Rafa Benitez’s ‘short blanket’ metaphor, this has left them badly exposed at the back.

Whether they play a back-four or a back-five isn’t an issue, they just need to ensure there is consistency and a solid defensive platform for the team to attack from.

Steve Bruce left his role as Newcastle United manager on Wednesday (Photo by PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images)

Fixing the defence and trying to get some clean-sheets under their belt as soon as possible must be a priority between now and January in order to keep Newcastle in-touch with the other sides battling to avoid the drop.

Have an identity

One of the main criticisms of Bruce’s time in charge at Newcastle is the fact that his sides often lacked an identity.

Their attack usually revolved around hoping Allan Saint-Maximin could produce a piece of magic whilst a constant chopping and changing of systems never allowed for any consistency from week to week.

The new manager by no means simply must implement a free-flowing attacking, Kevin Keegan ‘entertainers’ style to appeas the fans either, Newcastle just need to find a consistent but successful a way of playing.

It may take some time for this new identity to come to the surface, however, it would be a great step in the right direction once implemented.

The Jonjo Shelvey dilemma

There’s no doubt that Shelvey was one of Bruce’s most-trusted players. Whenever he was fit, he’d be in the centre of the park instructed to ‘pull the strings’ of Newcastle’s attack.

After being missing since the opening day of this season, Shelvey returned to first-team action on Sunday, however, he was disappointingly sent-off just 23 minutes into his return.

Whatever your thoughts are about possibly the most polarising figure at the club, it is clear that in the next few months, Shelvey may be invaluable in helping Newcastle’s attack flourish and secure points before the January window.

How to best use the existing attacking talent

With the January window still over two months away, Newcastle’s new manager will have to squeeze the very best out of the current squad before an overhaul can commence.

One of the first things they need to do is to find a system that manages to fit Callum Wilson, Saint-Maximin, Miguel Almiron and Joe Willock into an efficient unit until January.

Bruce was often accused of playing players out of position and using them ineffectively, this mistake cannot be repeated again.

Getting to January relatively unscathed and in a position to strengthen is absolutely vital for any long-term success, and Newcastle’s attack are going to have a big say in this outcome.

Solve the goalkeeping crisis

So far this season, both Freddie Woodman and Karl Darlow have played in goal in the Premier League and it is likely a third will be added to that list when Martin Dubravka is back fit.

Despite these changes being enforced, there’s no doubt that chopping and changing of the man between the sticks has contributed to the poor defensive showings from Newcastle this season.

Whether this means purchasing a new goalkeeper in January, which is always a risky move, or to settle on a consistent number one, ensuring Newcastle go into the second-half of the campaign with a consistent platform at the back to build upon is essential.

Get transfer business done...early

For too long, Newcastle have acted late in the window meaning any player joining the club has an ever-decreasing window of opportunity to make an impact. They must not fall into that trap this season.

Joe Willock’s impact last season was priceless for Newcastle, but imagine what he could have achieved had he been signed at the beginning of January, giving him three extra games to settle into the side?

It is always tough to get deals completed in January and this year it will be even tougher given the over-inflated prices Newcastle will now have to pay in order to tempt players to Tyneside.

However, this only strengthens the fact that they need to take a proactive and front-foot approach to transfers and make sure they strengthen early in the window.

Win games

And the most simple thing the new man in charge can do is to win their first game.

It certainly won’t be easy, however, Newcastle need to start accumulating points, quickly, and the best time to do that is right now.

Early wins will not just endear the new man to the supporters, but will also help alleviate huge concerns that relegation from the Premier League could be a real possibility come May.

A very, very tough December is also on the horizon for Newcastle - they need to start winning games, quickly.

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