The result of the Arsenal game went as I expected – a defeat.
It wasn’t a classic, but I would argue that the first half was more enjoyable to watch than the 11 behind the ball tactics adopted by Rafa Benitez.
The issue was our failure to build on that steady first half and the mix up at the back that lead to their avoidable goal, but we more than held our own and a draw would have been a fair result.
I acknowledge this was our first game, but for me many of the players didn’t look match fit. Matt Richie will run all day (although he was a bit ragged yesterday) and Hayden was our outstanding player, but many appeared to be struggling with fitness in the second half.
The question I ask myself is; Would a Rafa team have got a point in this fixture? I think it would, and that’s why I think we will struggle under Steve Bruce’s guidance. People will say ‘but Rafa lost three of his four PL games vs Arsenal’, but our home defeat to the Gunners this time last season saw them field a MUCH stronger starting 11. It’s fair to say they were as weak as they’re going to be all season on Sunday.
We may well find the style of play more enjoyable this season, with TV pundits applauding our efforts, instead of being scathing at what they saw as negative tactics. But we may also pay the price.
This is the dilemma, he has a team that look capable of causing teams real problems on paper, but he must find the balance and a system that works at both ends.
I noted Lee Charley’s comments in the match day programme, acknowledging the need to improve the clubs dialogue with supporters. It’s only taken 10 years, so I don’t hold the slightest hope for any change there.
Arsenal are a top club and player for player have more quality than the Toon. Whilst the defeat was disappointing and the second half display was deflating, I will judge our potential at Norwich City next weekend. That is the true test of where we’re really at.
Come on Steve, you need to be more than a manager. You need to get the best from the team, be an ambassador for the club (on and off the pitch) and you must win over the Toon faithful.