What has gone wrong for Bruce and how he can fix it
Photo Credit:(Gettyimages/Serena Taylor)

After another embarrassing performance, Steve Bruce changed his approach and told his players to stay away from the training ground after the defeat to Leicester City.


Bruce has struggled to stamp his authority on the Newcastle United squad, despite being in charge for over two months now with players telling him his tactics and formations are not working.


With many calling for Bruce to change tactics to try and resurrect an already disastrous season, a solution may be easier to find than many think.


Last season Newcastle had little possession but have posed a serious threat on the counter-attack with pace out wide and a focal point down the middle in Ayoze Perez and Salomon Rondon.


However, this season they have had the lowest amount of possession with a mere 33.9% but instead of having a threat in the final third they have had just 65 touches in the opposition's box showing how little service Joelinton is receiving.

Players starved of service


For the previous 18 months, Newcastle have had the same core group of players that have played in the same system, either a 3-4-3 in attack or 5-4-1 in defence.


This is what Rafa Benitez saw as the best formation to get the maximum out the players at his disposal and Bruce has inherited that group of hard-working players but seems to have totally disregarded the work Benitez did.


Bruce has used four different formations this season with only the 5-4-1 proving fruitful scoring all their goals with this formation.


However, Bruce has been adamant that a four at the back formation is the best way to go and tested it out from the start of a match for the first time against the Foxes and they went on to get beat 5-0.


A five at the back formation will allow Newcastle to remain compact at the back but still pose a strong threat in the final third.


Benitez played to his player's strengths last season, getting the ball into Rondon who would bring other players into play around him and turn defence into attack efficiently.

Formation must change


However, Bruce seems to have ignored what his players are good at in the final third and instead put a load of different tactics into one formation which is what has led to the unorganised mess fans have witnessed this season.


Slow build-up play is forcing Joelinton to come too deep leaving the Magpies toothless upfront and forcing Miguel Almiron to cover the central striker role which is an unnatural position to the Paraguayan.


Almiron is running down blind alleys this season as he sees no options in front of him and being dispossessed too easily, whereas last season he was smart with the ball out wide and would cut in from the left-hand side to create space for Matt Ritchie.


However, this season he has only managed 0.7 successful dribbles per game compared to 1.1 last season whereas if he was being played in the number 10 role or on the left-wing he would thrive.


In the number 10, he would have the space to get his head up and run at defenders and thread through other players and on the left he would have pace to burn against full-backs as well the option to cut inside on his favoured left foot.


It is not just Almiron and Joelinton who are struggling under Bruce, it is the whole side, but Almiron is one of Newcastle's best players so to see him manage a mere 0.4 key passes per game is shocking, compared to last season he managed 1.3.

Players not working as hard as last season


Both teams were battling against relegation so nothing has changed, however, the difference is that Bruce has changed too much too quickly with no authority or thoroughness.


How can Bruce expect players to respect and believe in him if he cannot decide on a formation he likes himself.


It raises the question is Bruce able to motivate his players to give everything for him and the club.


Newcastle have shown little fight on the pitch as they have a 4.8 in challenge intensity which measures how a team works without the ball including interceptions, tackles and duels.


Last season it was at 5.6 showing the drastic drop in intensity and hard work on the pitch and that Newcastle are not doing the basics correctly.


Newcastle have simply lost every midfield battle this season as a result of no intensity and willingness to win the ball back immediately.

Back to basics


Newcastle's engine room last season was powered by Sean Longstaff and Isaac Hayden with the former looking a shadow of his former self.


Longstaff has looked a few yards off the pace since making his return from injuries having made 0.4 more fouls per game as a result of lagging behind the game.


Last season he was a breath of fresh air to an injury-hit Newcastle side with his sharp and precise passing moving Newcastle up the pitch.


However, he has not been able to do that to the best of his ability this season managing to complete just 74.5% of his passes compared to last season's 80.9%.


Bruce must change his stale tactics and begin to understand how to get the most out of his players.


A five at the back formation seems to suit every player apart from Jonjo Shelvey as he is either not fit enough or want to do that much running required to dominate the midfield.

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