When Steve Bruce joined Newcastle, he spoke a bit about playing in a more open and attacking style. Even some of the players during pre-season mentioned their excitement at playing attacking football under Bruce.
While the team looked very threatening at times in pre-season, once the Premier League came around, it was a different story.
Newcastle have struggled a bit in creating chances, but that is understandable as many players being relied upon in the attack are still coming to grips with the Premier League. Also, Steve Bruce has only been with the club since mid-July, so it could take some time to get everything clicking in the final third.
Newcastle did decently against Arsenal at both ends of the pitch, but the next game against Norwich was a disaster. It was after that game that Steve Bruce switched the formation to give Joelinton a little more help upfront.
However, it was the defensive performance against Tottenham that was most impressive. Staying organized at the back was an area of concern without the meticulous Rafa Benitez in charge.
Bruce seems to have gotten it right after the Norwich match. While they conceded a sloppy goal early at Watford, Newcastle have been sound defensively against three quality Premier League teams in Spurs, Leicester, and Watford.
Bruce spoke in the Chronicle about how defending that will be a priority over the next few months:
“The one area we are going to have to put a lot of work into is in defense. Our defensive organization has to be spot on to give yourself any type of platform.
“I think we had Leicester, Tottenham, and Arsenal in the space of a week recently and they managed five shots on target against us. So that’s a positive thing.
“We will have to keep it to that and make sure those standards stay high. The next step, which will take weeks and months, is the hardest one.
“It’s creativity and that little bit of something that will cause a threat to other teams. It’s getting that balance right.
“But there’s no excuses, we have to defend first, and I think we can be satisfied with our last month’s work. Take away the Norwich debacle since we walked through the door in the last six or seven weeks we can be satisfied.
“Whether it has been three at the back or five at the back we have worked tirelessly on it. Hopefully, things will continue to grow.”
We are pleased that Bruce is concentrating on defending first because that’s what keeps teams in the Premier League. From what we’ve seen so far, Newcastle seem to have enough about them to finish the season with relative comfort in regards to survival.
However, one of Newcastle’s greatest strengths is the excellent central defenders. While the attack takes it’s time to get sorted, Newcastle must keep limiting the opposition’s chances on goal.