Old Steve Bruce habits emerge & the player Joe Willock should replace in the starting XI - SEVEN Newcastle United takeaways
It was a deeply frustrating afternoon for Newcastle United as Arsenal cruised to victory at St James’s Park in the Premier League.
Here, our writer Jordan Cronin provides his seven takeaways from the defeat to Mikel Arteta’ side.
A massive opportunity blown
It was almost criminal that Steve Bruce’s side failed to lay a glove on a bang average 9th placed Arsenal team.
This was an opponent whose only Premier League victory in their last five matches came at basement boys Sheffield United.
A win would have ultimately guaranteed survival, which makes the stand-offish approach by Bruce and co slightly baffling.
With Leicester City and Manchester City next up, wins for Fulham or West Brom in that time could create some late nerves before United entertain Sheffield United in their penultimate game.
The prospect of that could have been avoided.
36 points should still be enough for survival
That said, it's all if, buts and maybes – and United’s current points total should still be enough to keep them up.
Fulham’s defeat at Chelsea on Saturday, you’d think, has killed their survival hopes, even if Scott Parker refuses to throw in the towel.
The door isn’t completely closed for Parker’s side or Big Sam’s Baggies but to do that, they’ll have to win all of their remaining fixtures.
Given both clubs have won just five games all season, a miracle is required.
Newcastle of the old – even with their best players on the pitch
That performance is one Newcastle fans have been so used to seeing throughout Bruce’s tenure – and that is precisely why he has his critics.
Bruce deserves credit for the turnaround in recent weeks but it was very much the same old against Arsenal, even with Callum Wilson and Allan Saint-Maximin on the pitch.
That is one of the reasons why I remain doubtful that Bruce is the right man to lead the football club.
Midfield battle well-and-truly lost
For the brilliant footballer Jonjo Shelvey is, he doesn’t take control of games as much as he should. Not even close.
He rarely tracks runs, he rarely tackles. More often than not, games just pass him by.
Stand-in captain or not, he must be the player who makes way for Joe Willock in these final four games.
Sean Longstaff was poor but still deserves a chance. Shelvey frequently under performs.
That said, Miguel Almiron just doesn’t fit the system, so I won’t be surprised if Bruce sticks with Shelvey and drops the Paraguayan instead.
A player or team on a bad run… step up Newcastle United
Newcastle always seem happy to oblige when some team or someone is looking to end a bad run.
Sheffield United hunting for their first win? Timo Werner ending his 14-game goal drought at Chelsea? There are plenty more examples.
Add Mohamed Elneny to that list – his first-ever Premier League goal in 66 games i.e. five years.
Granit Xkaha – the most blatant of second yellows
Mike Dean missed one of the most blatant second yellows ever.
Granit Xhaka had zero intention to play the ball and completely stopped Longstaff’s run forward.
On 55 minutes, had a red card correctly been awarded by Dean, it could have provided some kind of hope during a deeply disheartening watch.
Leaving it late for substitutes
Bruce has a habit of making substitutions late in games – sometimes far too late.
Now, it’s probably rich to say that given Willock’s contributions, Saint-Maximin at Burnley etc but to wait 72 minutes to make a sub when your team is 2-0 down is annoying.