Newcastle have struggled for goals since putting three past Southampton in our last win six matches ago. The lads have managed just three goals since then with two coming from captain Jamaal Lascelles.
Bruce hasn’t been able to find a suitable replacement for striker Callum Wilson over that stretch. After some experimentation, he’s settled on Joelinton on the right side of the front three.
Against Wolves to close February, Bruce lost both Miguel Almiron and Allan Saint-Maximin to injury. That compounded his problem with fielding a squad capable of getting the goals necessary to pick up wins.
Bruce has stuck with the 4-3-3 formation despite having to put some square pegs into round holes. Needless to say, that formula has not produced the desired results.
After the disappointing draw at West Brom in early March, Bruce was asked about making a change to the system to better suit the players he had on hand. This was his response at the time:
“I think it was important not to disturb the shape that we’ve been playing in the last six weeks or so. The players are getting used to the way we want to play, so I thought it was imperative we stuck with that.
“Joe (Willock) has played as a number ten on many occasions through his career at Arsenal, so with the problems we have, it was simply a case of trying to find a way of winning the match and not disrupting the way we have been playing too much.
“If we had played Andy and Dwight, then we’d have to change the whole set-up, and I don’t think we had time to do that. We’re getting used to playing in a certain way, it’s the way I want to play, but unfortunately, having come up with the system, we’ve been struck down by the loss of Almiron, Callum, and Allan. It’s been very difficult to try to replace them.”
Miguel Almiron returned in the defeat at Brighton and slotted straight back into the false 9 role. However, Miggy was obviously not 100% which Bruce conceded during his press conference this morning.
For Sunday, Almiron should be closer to his best after the two-week international break. There’s also a good chance that Allan Saint-Maximin will return in some capacity for Spurs on Sunday.
However, Callum Wilson likely won’t play a part this weekend with next week’s match at Burnley a more realistic date for his return. With that in mind, Bruce was again asked about changing the formation for Sunday’s match during today’s press conference.
Bruce seemed much more open to the idea than he was a few weeks ago. This was his response:
“The difficulty is, of course, when you’re losing your big players at the top end of the pitch.
“Then, unfortunately, I believe that every team in the Premier League would struggle if you took their front three away.
“Unfortunately over the last few weeks, we’ve been without them.
“You’re quite right to ask the question will there be a change – there could be.”