Newcastle had made a concerted effort to play higher up the pitch against some of the top clubs in England recently. That was evident in the FA Cup defeat at Arsenal on Saturday, where Newcastle had plenty of chances but just couldn’t convert them.
Bruce still infused his team with a defensive mindset while taking on the likes of Liverpool and Manchester City. But the lads still looked somewhat of a threat on the counter.
However, yesterday against Sheffield United, who had just 2 points in 17 matches, Bruce kept the reins tightly held and stuck with similar tactics. Newcastle had a few chances through Callum Wilson but lacked a consistent threat for much of the match.
The team held up well defensively but Ryan Fraser’s red card just before the break was a punishing and completely unnecessary blow. The handball decision against Fede Fernandez gave the Blades the breakthrough they were desperately striving for.
While those were two significant moments of the match, Newcastle’s tiresome and anemic performance brought them what they deserved, absolutely nothing.
The Chronicle has published Bruce’s explanation of his tactical approach for yesterday’s defeat. Here is what Bruce said he was trying to achieve:
“Too defensive in the approach?
“Well we have played the same sort of way and I have changed the personnel at the top end of the pitch to try to give us something a little bit different because we haven’t scored enough or created enough.
“That was my thinking, playing Ryan Fraser and Sean Longstaff as two false number 10s instead of Miguel Almiron and Big Joe.
“Of course, because of the games we’ve had, I tried to pick a team with a certain freshness.
“I wanted to see if something different would work.
“In hindsight what I needed was to get in at half-time to change things around but unfortunately the red card put pay to that.”
Whatever Bruce was trying obviously didn’t work out, and that’s been the case for much of the season. He seems incapable of balancing the squad between defending and attack. It’s Rafa’s short blanket with the blanket crumpled at the foot of the bed.