Static defenders, out-of-position midfielders & no support up top – Newcastle United's Brighton loss was Steve Bruce's worst nightmare
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This was no swoop and grab by the Seagulls. Brighton outwitted United and broke them within 10 quickfire, first-half minutes. It was easy work for Graham Potter & Co.
And while two wins from two, no goals conceded and new signings glowing had seen a sense of positivity reign supreme on Tyneside of late – Brighton’s unflustered dismantling of Steve Bruce’s Newcastle has brought the cracks back to the fore.
Here are Liam Kennedy’s SEVEN Newcastle United takeaways from St James’s Park…
4-4-2 – there’s reasons why there’s no comeback!
There are reasons why the flat 4-4-2 has largely been consigned to the scrapheap. Newcastle United’s show on Sunday adds further evidence to that.
This formation, although benefitting very few players bar maybe the central duo and Andy Carroll, sees two key players in the system – the widemen – played totally out of position.
Jeff Hendrick is a central midfielder not a right-sided player in a four. Allan Saint-Maximin is a wide forward, not a winger who can go both ways. These two look totally ineffectual, the latter much more so, in this formation. It needs to change.
ASM must be pushed further forward
Let’s not jump off a cliff with the Frenchman’s show – for me, he’s being played out of position!
Asking ASM to do too much going back is and always was going to be a recipe for disaster. And so it proved as he handed Brighton an early gift with the penalty. From then his confidence looked shot and it was no surprise to see him limp off, tail between his legs midway through the opening 45.
IF Bruce is to persist with this formation, ASM just doesn’t fit, unless he’s played up top.
Miguel Almiron is key
I can see why Bruce left him out, but hindsight is a great thing – and United need him in their team, always have, always will.
Without him they look devoid of a link between front and middle. He runs between the lines, drifts from left to right and has the pace to put any Premier League defender on red alert.
He plays next week, and the week after that. Plain and simple.
Jamal Lewis at sixes and sevens
Yves Bissouma saw red late on for a dangerous bit of play which saw Lewis ushered off the park gingerly, bandaged and bruised – but it put an end to what was a very poor second game for the summer signing on Tyneside.
While at West Ham the former Norwich man looked like a real attacking force, he was pinned back against the Seagulls and given a defensive lesson.
He was not helped by an absolute lack of cover in front of him, mind.
A LOT of Brighton’s attacks originated down his side. He needs to stop the crosses at source a little more.
It is a shame he never got the chance to get on the front foot, though.
Static centre halves given the runaround
Jamaal Lascelles and Federico Fernandez were statuesque against Brighton. This was no Christ the Redeemer or Venus de Milo show, though, more Cristiano Ronaldo from Madeira Airport.
The pair were so static in their positioning, it was like watching bees swarm around old oak trees, those busy bees being light and nimble operators like Neil Maupay and Aaron Connolly.
Maybe the system didn’t suit the team, maybe it was just the perfect storm against a well-organised Brighton. But here’s to hoping there aren’t too many more shows like this from the duo, because options behind them are light.
Steve Bruce’s substitutions actually impacted the game – but too little, too late
In his 18 months on Tyneside it’s fair to say Bruce’s substitutions have rarely, if ever, had a positive impact on games. More often than not they were used when the game was gone, and did little to change the flow, or in attempting to cut off the opposition, gave them hope.
This time, though, Miguel Almiron and Ryan Fraser’s introductions had an impact, seeing United get a foothold in the game.
The Joelinton change didn’t mind.
Callum Wilson needs help
Andy Carroll is top Plan B or Plan C for any club. He’s not Plan A.
And I have to say I felt sorry for Wilson, ploughing a lone furrow up top, with little to no help early doors.
Newcastle need to sign a player to support him, another striker to play with him, or push him for his place.
Joelinton is not that. And if I was Bruce, I’d be using the final few weeks of the window to send him out on loan. His confidence is shot – and a summer off doesn’t seem to have recharged the batteries, or the feet.