After four matches, Newcastle sit 19th in the EPL table on just one point and a goal difference of -7. It was largely considered a beneficial start when the schedule was released early in the summer.
The Magpies have failed to put in a complete performance with our defensive liabilities on full display. That was again the case this past weekend as we fell 4-1 at Manchester United. Though, the final score was a bit harsh on the lads.
Bruce changed the formation to a 5-4-1 after deploying the 5-3-2 in pre-season and all our matches in August. So the shape-shifting we saw so much of last season has returned. The game plan was effective until The Red Devils found their breakthrough just before the break.
Unfortunately, it was an off-day for Freddie Woodman, who should have done better on Ronaldo’s two strikes. To his credit, the 24-year-old has held his hands up and admitted it was not good enough on his Instagram account which Newcastle have tweeted out.
— Newcastle United FC (@NUFC) September 12, 2021
Freddie’s performance now opens the door for Karl Darlow to get into the team for Leeds on Friday. Bruce has a decision to make in goal and could go with the more experienced Darlow to try and right the ship.
There’s also the uncertainty surrounding Callum Wilson’s thigh strain. His goalscoring ability was a big miss at Old Trafford as Newcastle were able to create plenty of chances. It’s not good news on Callum according to The Athletic as he could be out until October.
David Ornstein has written the following in his report:
Bruce has refused to put a timescale on Wilson’s return but the striker is unlikely to feature against Leeds United, Watford and Wolverhampton Wanderers.
The situation with Paul Dummett is also a concern. He was back in training and in contention ahead of the Southampton match. Bruce said the following prior to our Carabao Cup defeat against Burnley:
“He only trained yesterday with the group. I think tomorrow will be too early for him but hopefully, he’ll put himself in contention for the weekend – we’ll see how he trains this week.”
However, it appears that he’s suffered a setback with the calf strain that has kept him out of action this season. However, it doesn’t appear to be a major one as he could return for Friday according to various injury sites.
— Injury Expert (@PremierInjuries) September 11, 2021
Bruce also confirmed after the Manchester United defeat that all three of his substitutions were forced. Joe Willock, Ciaran Clark, and Javier Manquillo were taken off at Old Trafford due to knocks.
Here is Bruces’s assessment on the trio as published in The Shields Gazette:
“Yes, we have a disappointed dressing room, one with a few knocks.
“Joe Willock, Ciaran Clark, in particular, and Manqy (Manquillo). We’ll have to see how they are. Let’s hope they’re OK.”
Hopefully, they are only suffering from minor knocks and will be in contention for the massive match against Leeds on Friday. Bruce could face an angry crowd at St. James’ Park if Newcastle don’t put in a complete performance.