Last Friday, Paul Merson wrote a column in the Daily Star stating that he was desperate for Newcastle to stay up this season.
He acknowledged that he had a somewhat contentious relationship with the fans but also admitted that he thought they were a vital part of the Premier League. He even went as far as to call them magnificent.
In the article, which was before the Crystal Palace fiasco, Merson wrote that he thought Newcastle would stay up but asserted that it would not be an easy task.
After Saturday’s loss, Merson served as a pundit on Gillette Soccer Saturday. The Chronicle have published some comments from him about the Crystal Palace defeat.
The former England midfielder thinks Newcastle’s primary problem was with the midfield pairing of Longstaff and Bentaleb not coping with the Palace midfield.
He was asked if he thought Bruce set up to negatively at Selhurst Park. This was his response:
“No, not really. They played Joelinton, Almiron, Saint-Maximin and they were lively up front.
“But the two in midfield just got overrun. They played Longstaff and Bentaleb in midfield against the three of Palace and they just got overrun.
“I thought Steve Bruce should have changed it quicker, and the keeper kept them in the game if I’m being honest.
“Saint-Maximin was the only one who was really a threat. It was a bad day at the office. They probably played worse than they did at Arsenal.”
We agree with a lot of what Merson said about the midfield duo. Both Sean and Nabil really struggled on Saturday, which is why we think Isaac Hayden will be back in the team against Burnley.
Bruce also waited far too long to make adjustments to address the problem. He eventually made some substitutions and pushed Fabian Schar further forward. However, it had little impact on the proceedings.
The game was an anomaly in that Newcastle had the bulk of possession at 56%. However, they struggled to do anything when on the ball resulting in a tepid attacking display.
The following shot map from @Caley_graphics shows just how awful Newcastle were in creating chances on Saturday. Therein lies Newcastle’s primary issue.