Steve Bruce challenged on timescale for success at Newcastle United
Karl Darlow has been busier than any Premier League goalkeeper.
Darlow has made 28 saves so far this season – and that’s five more than West Bromwich Albion’s Sam Johnstone.
Thanks to Darlow – who is doubtful for tomorrow’s game against Wolverhampton Wanderers at Molineux after colliding with Marcus Rashford last weekend – the club has only conceded nine goals.
Last season, ever-present Martin Dubravka, sidelined with injury until late this year, faced more shots (140) than any other top-flight goalkeeper.
Dubravka wasn’t nearly as busy the season before that, when Rafa Benitez was manager and the team was known for its defensive rigidity and resilience.
And that's the thing. Steve Bruce, keen to get more on the front foot, has changed the way the team has played, but in doing so, he has left them vulnerable.
Last Saturday, in the 4-1 defeat against Manchester United, Newcastle spent far too much time on the back foot, fans were critical of his approach to the behind-closed-doors game.
For Bruce, it’s about “balance” – and he needs to find the right balance sooner rather than later.
"We're trying to find the balance of the attacking side to the defending side,” said Bruce.
“Certainly, when you leave yourself a little bit open against these big teams – Tottenham and Man United, in my opinion, will both be in the top four – and you open yourself up, then this is what happens, so it's getting that balance right.
"Yes, we can talk about Miggy (Almiron) and Ryan (Fraser), but also getting that defensive area right where the goalkeeper has had to make far too many saves.
"It’s trying to find that balance but in the whole scheme of it, we have played five games, and I believe two of those were against two of the top teams in this country, if not Europe, and we've come away with seven points, which is a decent enough start.
"Of course, we have to work and keep working to get that balance right, because we’re in the middle of a bit of change, and let's hope we can try and achieve that.”
Supporters are getting impatient, and Bruce, appointed as Benitez’s successor 15 months ago, was asked how long it will take for him to get it right ahead of the club’s visit to Molineux.
“It won't happen overnight – if course not,” said Newcastle’s head coach. “We'll keep working away at it, and improving on it, because we have to try and get that balance right.
"We can't just be far too open, especially against these good teams, who are very good on their day. Let's not forget, we were 1-1, maybe undeservedly, with four minutes to play, and I opened us totally at 2-1 and we saw the result of it, unfortunately.
"We have to keep working on it. It's the big conundrum that I face.”
Bruce got the players he wanted in the summer – but fans aren’t yet getting the football they want from their team.