How an unlikely change may have saved Newcastle's season
Photo Credit:(Gettyimages/Stu Forster)

Since Steve Bruce took the Newcastle United job in the summer he has wanted to play with a back four, however, he felt the squad was not ready to play this way.

He attempted to veer away from a five at the back away to Norwich City in the second game of the season which saw the Magpies battered 3-1.

Newcastle then plodded along with three centre backs and two wing-backs before they travelled to Leicester City just over a month later and conceded five on a bleak night for Bruce.

He demanded an immediate dressing room inquiry into why that happened and why players were not playing for the badge as they had done in previous seasons.

High risk, high reward 

However, after failing to score against Oxford United, Arsenal, Norwich and Crystal Palace and not creating any big chances Bruce's hand felt forced.

Although something so drastic was not expected he rolled the dice against Burnley and despite another 0-0 there were plenty of positives.

The Magpies had more possession, dominated the game and had over 20 shots, this is what Bruce envisioned when he took the job.

Newcastle attacking the opposition at home and getting fans interested in the football being played instead of hoping for a lucky 1-0 win.

He switched to a 4-2-3-1 and switched a number of players around and tried them in new positions.

Miguel Almiron operated as a number 10, Joelinton as a left-winger, Matt Ritchie as a right-winger and Dwight Gayle as a lone striker.

To Bruce's delight, it clicked right from kick-off with Newcastle £40 million number nine looking instantly more comfortable out wide and offering his defensive services to Danny Rose.

The Brazillian has struggled to lead the line for the Magpies but Bruce may have found a way to get more out fo Joelinton as he demonstrated his ability on the ball and more than anything proved how he cannot play with his back to goal alone.

Bruce deserves credit

Not many people wanted Bruce to get the job and when he did fans demanded he stuck to Rafa Benitez's tried and tested tactics.

While those tactics kept the Magpies solid at the back they were not creating many chances, like under the Spaniard, however, they do not have players like Ayoze Perez and Salomon Rondon to put their limited chances away.

Therefore, it was imperative that Bruce ensured his attacking players were creating more chances to give them a higher chance of winning games.

Bruce has essentially taken the shackles off Almiron and gave him almost a free role which suits the Paraguayan down to a tee.

He is allowed to dictate the play int he final third, his ability to receive the ball on the turn and once he gets running at defenders very few can stop him legally.

His ball to Allan Saint-Maximin for the third goal against West Bromwich Albion demonstrated his control over the rest of the attacking players.

He allowed Joelinton to make a late run through the middle and ignored Valentino Lazaro in order to spread the play out wide, thus stretching the Baggies at the back.

This obviously lead to the winning goal and a more attacking Newcastle side terrified the Championship table-toppers.

However, it is the subtle change Bruce has made in switching players' positions and roles which could be key to securing their Premier League safety as soon as possible.

Bruce deserves immense credit for this bold move to a back four and ditching what everyone knew and trusted as he has delivered attacking potential to Tyneside for the first time in years and an FA Cup quarter-final.