Premier League pragmatism is required at Newcastle United – NOT Graeme Jones' immediate idealism

Since the departure of Rafa Benitez from St James’ Park, Newcastle United have been crying out for an identity.

Tuesday, 9th March 2021, 4:45 pm

No tactics nor system has stuck, no style has brought substance. Results, as we all know, have proven equally hard to come by.

This changed, a little, when Graeme Jones was appointed to the football club – the act of an owner so desperate not to sack his manager that he chose to ultimately undermine rather than compensate for his failures.

A collective front-foot press and split strikers 4-3-3 was born – and with Callum Wilson as a wide focal point, it worked.

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NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 27: Newcastle striker Joelinton reacts after a chance goes begging during the Premier League match between Newcastle United and Wolverhampton Wanderers at St. James Park on February 27, 2021 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. Sporting stadiums around the UK remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

There was no massive upturn in results, but United looked a lot more like getting one, something were a million miles away from with Bruce in sole charge of affairs.

The main system switch/approach rebirth beneficiary was Miguel Almiron. The Paraguayan deployed in a totally new role, the false nine.

With Almiron and Wilson out, Allan Saint-Maximin is also absent medium-term, United just don’t have like-for-like replacements in their squad.

They have players who can play No10 in Joe Willock, Sean Longstaff and Elliot Anderson – they do not however have another player capable of the false nine. Ryan Fraser may buck that trend, if trusted. While some are unable to differentiate – these roles, No10 and false nine, are very, very different.

Bruce also does not have a Wilson-like wide forward with the same instinct, physicality and frontline leadership.

This is where pragmatism needs to triumph over idealism.

Jones’ new strategy worked with the personnel to play it – and I get the reluctance to bin the philosophy, which is something the club has been crying out for nearly two years.

But Sunday proved that in this system United are toothless without their three main weapons. A rethink is needed.

If Jones could turn around United performances as swiftly after arriving as it appears, he can do so again.

Split strikers need shelved and saved for future reference. Joelinton, however, is a different story.

After two seasons, playing the same player and expecting a different result is insanity.

Andy Carroll and Dwight Gayle need brought back into the fold, somehow. United need goals, a possible threat, and a lowering of the white flag. Trying something, anything, might just aid their cause.

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