When Steve Bruce joined Newcastle on July 17th, he immediately flew to China to meet up with the squad. That day saw Newcastle fall in their first pre-season match to Wolves 0-4.
Steve Bruce had a few days with the squad, and we saw them line-up in a 3-5-2 formation with immediate results in a 1-0 win against West Ham in the second match of the Premier League Asia Trophy.
Bruce used this formation throughout pre-season and in the first two matches of the season. However, a poor display at Norwich saw Newcastle switch to a 5-4-1 formation against Tottenham. It was during that game that Christian Atsu was brought on for the injured Allan Saint-Maximin.
What a game it was for Atsu whose pinpoint pass to Joelinton led to the Brazilian’s first goal for Newcastle, and an unlikely 0-1 win at Spurs.
Christian had missed the entirety of the season up to that point due to an injury suffered at the Africa Cup of Nations in July. He came back at the perfect time. Not only had Steve Bruce just implemented a new formation but left-winger Allan Saint-Maximin had succumbed to the hamstring injury he was struggling with.
Atsu came on to the left-wing in a formation similar to the one used last season. Christian put in an outstanding performance. He followed that up by again coming on for an injured player in Matt Ritchie against Leicester City in the Carabao Cup.
Christian got the start against Watford last week with new left-back Jetro Willems behind him on the left. He again put in a terrific performance and played well with Willems.
Atsu showed promising signs towards the end of last season when he filled in for the injured Miguel Almiron. He started the final three games and finished the season very strongly.
Christian has been an excellent team player who has come in for injured players, and the side has shown no signs of suffering from it. Steve Bruce will see Christian as a big bonus. He had not seen much of Christian prior to the week leading to Tottenham when the twenty-seven-year-old returned to full training. He also hadn’t been using wingers until that week.
This is what Steve Bruce said about Christian and his timely return to action in the Chronicle.
“I’ve only really seen Christian since the back end of last week because of the stuff with the African Nations and being injured, but as soon as he’s come in, he’s handled the ball well.
“Whether it’s given him a new lease of life, I’m not sure, but I been very, very pleased with him.
“He’s done very, very well. He ran himself to a standstill (against Watford). I have to tell you.”
We think Atsu has been outstanding in his three matches this season. He was a player who was sort of an afterthought this pre-season. However, he has shown such improvement in his game that it looks like he will have a massive role to play this season. It couldn’t have come at a better time.