The Steve Bruce negativity undercurrent, misplaced loyalty & no 'Plan B' – Liam Kennedy's SEVEN Newcastle United takeaways

Negativity reigns supreme on Tyneside again.

Wednesday, 3rd February 2021, 12:24 pm
Updated Wednesday, 3rd February 2021, 12:28 pm

Newcastle United fans have flowed seamlessly from the joys of a weekend win and the impressive, calculated football that went with it, to desperation and echoes of the Bruceball nightmare they’ve come accustomed to justifiably despising. It’s a transition they know too well.

Another defeat, another home humbling in the most underwhelming, and stress-inducing, season in recent memory.

But was it really that bad or can some positives be taken from it? Our writer Liam Kennedy takes a look at the 2-1 loss with his SEVEN Newcastle United takeaways.

NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 02: Crystal Palace defender Gary Cahill (r) and Jairo Riedewald challenge Callum Wilson of Newcastle during the Premier League match between Newcastle United and Crystal Palace at St. James Park on February 02, 2021 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England.

Pedestrian midfield

Slow and slower. Newcastle United need to up the tempo in their midfield – because when they do, rarely, they look a team transformed.

Far too often yesterday the ball went backwards and sideways at a pedestrian pace.

Jeff Hendrick, Jonjo Shelvey and Isaac Hayden were all culpable, but the former two is where the main responsibility lies. Hayden is a stopper in this system, while Hendrick and Shelvey are meant to make things happen. Particularly in the second 45 they didn’t.

I’d suspect Republic of Ireland international Hendrick may well be chopped from the XI at the weekend against Southampton. It will be interesting to see who comes in for the player with Steve Bruce able to choose from new boy Joe Willock and the now much-fitter Allan Saint-Maximin.

Time for ASM

He hasn’t shown it anywhere near often enough this season, but Saint-Maximin has the ability to change games, strike fear into opposition defenders and win matches.

It’s time to unleash the Frenchman against Southampton – and keep fingers crossed he’s the player of lockdown mark one, not this campaign.

Even when not playing to his potential, he ties up opposition bodies.

Let’s get real, United’s best is benched – it needs to change

Newcastle United arguably have their best player on the bench – and I’m not talking about ASM.

Martin Dubravka has been the Magpies’ most consistent performer over the last three years when fit and has won more points than he’s cost since arriving for a steal in 2018.

Bruce’s loyalty to Karl Darlow is commendable. It’s hard to see what he’s done wrong, but for me, Newcastle United need to have all of their best players on the pitch, in every position.

Dubravka is a superior keeper to Darlow, the players will know it – they see it every day – so too does the manager and his increasing number of coaches. And deep down, I think the fans know it, too.

Continued Lewis improvement

We saw flashes of how brilliant Jamal Lewis can be in an attacking sense against Everton – and the former Norwich City defender followed that up with an allround solid defensive display on Tuesday night.

Lewis won headers from set pieces, nipped in with some timely tackles to break up the play and positionally showed an awareness that seemed alien to him just a few short weeks back.

Much like the last youngster to make the migration from Norfolk to Tyneside, Jacob Murphy, Lewis looks to be a confidence player. And at the moment he’s riding the crest of a wave. Long may it continue.

‘Plan B’ leaves a lot to be desired

United’s performance has come under the microscope – and rightly so – but I’d say Bruce & Co definitely had a Plan A. Remember how you felt at half time and be honest with yourself – the positivity remained. The second half left a lot to be desired, though. And that’s where the lack of Plan B became particularly evident.

With Palace in front and well-organised, United could not break them down. And despite lots of possession – a real rarity this season – a lot of it was meaningless.

The substitutions in the second period, while likely seen as brave by some, were more Sunday morning stuff. Throw all the strikers on and bin the system, style and substance with it.

It needed tactical tweaks not a reinventing of the wheel.

Three more wins will do it?

It is impossible to predict but looking at last season as a guide, you’d imagine 34 points might well be enough to finish fourth bottom in the Premier League. Oh the joys!

On 22 points, that would likely mean Newcastle United need another three wins and a few draws from their end of season. A more than doable target.

Three points this weekend against ailing Southampton would go a long way to easing fears.

No matter the results, Bruce’s time is still up for the fans

This is a mess caused by Bruce and every below par show, even if night and day from a few weeks back, is going to bring people back round to the same negative standpoint. The fans want change, plain and simple.

The issue with that is, the club don’t share that feeling. They think the Graeme Jones sticking plaster will do the trick – and they might well be right.

Using common sense, Bruce is the man in the post and the form under him has been awful, some of the worst sequences of results and performances in the club’s top flight history. At many other top flight clubs he’d have been shown the door by now. He wouldn’t have got in the door anyway, but that’s another argument altogether.

As mentioned, he caused this. He attacked the fans. He went after the media, he went after his own players publically. He has been the manager for 18 awful months. Until Bruce leaves, that undercurrent of negativity will remain.

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