After Newcastle fell behind two goals against Arsenal in the second half, the head coach made a double substitution and changed the formation. Off came Fede Fernandez and Valentino Lazaro, and on came Isaac Hayden and Matt Ritchie.
Hayden moved to right-back as Bruce transitioned to a 4-1-4-1 with Matt Ritchie and Sean Longstaff playing centrally in front of Nabil Bentaleb. The change in the system saw two great opportunities to halve Arsenal’s lead.
However, the lads lost focus as the clock hit the 90-minute mark resulting in two very poor goals to make the final score an unpalatable 4-0.
Steve Bruce spoke after the match about the formation change. The Chronicle have published some of his comments.
“We changed things to try to get back into it, and in that change, we had two big opportunities.
“But we did become ragged. When we open up, we lose it at the other end and become too open.
“I have to say Martin Dubravka has been fantastic all season, but it’s a poor mistake.
“Then when you see Lacazette hit one and the ball come off his other foot and go in the top corner, you know it’s not your day.
“We have to move on, but the way we were so open at the end is a concern.”
Newcastle were open after the change but not necessarily due to the formation change. It was a case of the short blanket theory that Rafa would often talk about.
With this squad, you can’t have numbers moving forward pushing for a goal and be completely covered at the back.
At the end of the game yesterday, the backline just failed to stay switched on until the final whistle.
We still conceded two poor goals when we were playing in a 5-4-1.
For the first goal, Valentino Lazaro allowed Pierre-Emerick Aubamayang to get in front of him on a lofted cross into the box. Federico Fernandez also didn’t do enough to contest the Aubamayang’s header. It resulted in a relatively easy chance for the clinical striker, which he obliged to put away.
The second goal saw Bukayo Saka have his choice of two Gunners unmarked in the box to play the ball to. Nicolas Pepe ended up running onto it, but center-back Shkodran Mustafi also had no one around him.
Newcastle must move on from that second-half display yesterday. We played some of our best football in the first half, but it was entirely undone by shoddy defending throughout the second forty-five minutes.