Steve Bruce faces a decisive few days at Newcastle United

The FA Cup draw wasn’t kind to Newcastle United.
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Steve Bruce’s side will face an improving Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday, and the club’s head coach, at the very least, needs a performance from his team in the televised third-round tie.

Newcastle had better luck with their Carabao Cup draws, but the club’s run in that competition was brought to an abrupt end by Championship club Brentford before Christmas.

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The performance from a strong United XI at the Brentford Community Stadium was unacceptable – and Bruce admitted as such after the game.

Steve Bruce.Steve Bruce.
Steve Bruce.

Newcastle, on their return to the capital, face a tougher opponent. Arsenal have won their last three games, and are now taking strides forward under Mikel Arteta after a tough few months.

Most United fans are not convinced that Bruce can take the club forward.

The Arsenal fixture, unquestionably, is a tricky one for Bruce, but it’s followed by an even trickier one.

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Newcastle take on Sheffield United at Bramall Lane on December 12. On paper, it’s the easiest yet for the club given that Chris Wilder’s side have taken just two Premier League points so far this season.

Mike Ashley.Mike Ashley.
Mike Ashley.

But that makes it even harder given the likely reaction to anything other than a win for Bruce’s side. This isn’t a free hit. This is a game from which Newcastle are expected to take all three points

Bruce, however, must first tackle the cup tie – and he must get his team and tactics right. Bruce named a strong starting XI against Brentford, and that was a popular decision, but if there was a plan for those players on the pitch, it wasn’t evident. The team was pedestrian and plodding in midfield – and lacked ideas and imagination on the ball.

Bruce’s job, whatever the results over the next week or so, isn’t under threat. Bruce retains the support of owner Mike Ashley, and things would have to get a lot worse for that to change.

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Of course, things can change quickly in football, but this is about Bruce’s relationship with the fans more than that with Ashley.

And these two games are all-important for a manager who desperately needs to give a weary fanbase some hope for the coming months.

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