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Getting Away with Murder


No, this isn't a continuation of Florian Lejuene's bizarre program piece citing how to dispose of a dead body. This is about Steve Bruce and Newcastle United in the Premier League this season. Performances of late have been hard to watch and we seem to be saying a variation of the same thing on Newcastle Fans TV lately, and some, if not all of you would have probably had similar thoughts yourself. I have always been quick to praise Steve Bruce when it is warranted, as I feel he is still doing a pretty decent job under the circumstances. However, performances of late have not been good enough by any stretch of the imagination, and Bruce seems to be reeling off the same excuses and frustrations week in week out.

I've been bleating on for months now about the formation we play. Yes, it works well against the better sides in the league as the stats prove; no team outside the top six, has taken more points off the top six than Newcastle United. But when we are at home against the likes of Norwich City, Brighton, and this coming weekend against Burnley, we really don't need to be so defensive. Being defensive is all well and good when you're defending well, but the compactness and solidity we had become synonymous for, has become all too leaky this season; particularly from set pieces. Our goal difference is one of the worst in the league, and it doesn't bear thinking about how bad things could be, if it wasn't for a certain Martin Dubravka, who has the player of the year award sewn up.When Bruce has attempted to change formation, it hasn't gone well, but it's my belief that the reason is down to him changing to a wrong system. 3-5-2 doesn't work, 4-4-2 doesn't suit the players we have in the squad. 4-2-3-1 is the only way to go as it will solve a lot of issues Newcastle hold as I have previously discussed in my articles.

Player selection has been a contentious issue in the past couple of weeks too. Isaac Hayden, arguably our best midfielder, has been dropped from the last two starting elevens, in favour of a combination of Nabil Bentaleb and Sean Longstaff, whilst Jonjo Shelvey continues his recovery from injury, and the Matty Longstaff contract saga rumbles on.

Central midfield is arguably where we are strongest, along with the centre of defence, but I've a real problem with Bentaleb playing every game since his arrival on Tyneside in January. Nothing against Bentaleb the player, as he's clearly got ability. But for a player who was frozen out, barely featuring for Schalke in the first half of the season, why has Bruce thrown him in at the deep end unnecessarily instead of a gradual introduction to the team?

Right wing back is another bone of contention in the team. We've now got FOUR players in the squad capable of playing in that position, and that is not even including Isaac Hayden who has filled in there admirably on a couple of occasions. The injured Javier Manquillo has been the best in that position this season, and it is now looking likely he will be leaving the club when his contract expires in the summer. DeAndre Yedlin is again struggling for consistency in the Premier League. Some days he looks the real deal, other days he looks the complete opposite. Emil Krafth.. well lets just say that hasn't worked out well. New loan signing Valentino Lazaro has been dangerous going forward, but totally inept defending and "taking one for the team" in stoppage time at Palace, now sees him suspended for the next three games.

Obviously the big issue for Newcastle is scoring goals. Our top scorer this season is still Jonjo Shelvey with five Premier League goals to his name. Losing Perez was a massive blow, and not making Rondon's loan deal permanent now seems incredibly naive. Steve Bruce has tried sticking with Joelinton, but Bruce admitted last week that "Big Joe" was not a "natural goalscorer". The Andy Carroll experiment hasn't worked. We all knew it's impossible to get a full season out of Carroll, and to his credit, he's looked dangerous when appearing in the black and white this season, but goals win games, and the fact is he is yet to score in his second stint at the club.

Dwight Gayle is the only other realistic option, as Muto really should have been sold by now. But with Gayle a proven under-achiever in the Premier League, he is not the long term answer. He could be a temporary solution though, as we need a poacher; someone to keep up with ASM and get in the box!

In short, we've gotten away with murder this season, and assuming we stay up, which we really should given our remaining fixtures, things need to change. Steve Bruce will have no excuses about any of the above next season, as it will properly be his team, playing his way. If things don't change, then I will be amazed if Bruce is still Newcastle United manager this time next season.

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