There’s no doubt Steve Bruce deserves credit for taking over an almost impossible, toxic situation in the summer, and having us in reasonably good nick in terms of points and league position.
However let’s be honest, he’s probably achieved this more through his rapport with the players and being a nice guy, more than any footballing nous or great coaching ability, and probably due to this, his career is littered with examples of good starts and then catastrophic collapses.
No one can argue that the quality of football is much worse than it was in the second half of last season, when we looked a good side and were scoring goals. This is a far more accurate indication of his progress with the team than comparing his record of 25 games played with that of his predecessor.
The Bruce/Benitez comparisons are becoming mind numbingly boring, whatever your stance or preference, we can all agree with that. However if Steve Bruce is becoming as bored as us with it, he can massively help himself and us by stop making daft comments whenever the style of play is rightly so, criticised.
It clearly touches a nerve and like many of his ardent backers in the stands and media, the underlying message in all of his responses is a prickly reaffirming that he’s better than Benitez at this stage of the season.
The double standards sometimes are also baffling. He claimed in his recent press conference that it’s an insult to call them “lucky” – but they aren’t good enough to do what he wants.
He also said “they’ve played this way for 2-3 years” before correcting himself.
This current formation wasn’t used regularly until Burnley away last season, and the difference in how we attack and break and get men up in support from then until now is absolute chalk and cheese, regardless of a slight change in personnel.
Read more of his latest, curious comments below:
“It was this time last year the team went to a back five. Before that, they couldn’t win a corner.”………….
“It has been difficult to dominate matches, we are not in a situation where we can dominate anybody.
“We hope we can dominate Oxford but in this league (Premier League) it has not been possible and it hasn’t been for a long while.
“I have said from day one that I would love to play two up top.
“I just don’t think we are ready just yet with what we have got, so I won’t just change for the sake of it.
“We have got to make sure in time we will evolve, maybe I won’t get the time but that is the aim.”
For someone who seems to rely on his personality and likability to mask his shortcomings as a coach, he really has spoken some nonsense to the media this season. It really sounds like he’s blaming his own short comings and ability to change things on the players, who are all far better footballers than what we are seeing at the moment.
The unquestionable spirit, tenacity, work rate and togetherness were always is this squad, Bruce hasn’t instilled it in them. These are unquantifiable qualities that can’t be coached.
I’m fairly sure that any other coach in the Premier League would have this squad of players playing much, much more progressive football that what we have seen this season. Not one of them would get relegated with this team so this notion that Bruce is performing miracles is inaccurate.
Look at someone like Graham Potter at Brighton, who has completely managed to change the mentality of the club in the same time as Steve Bruce has had with us, and if you’re reading this and thinking I’m being unfair to Bruce because we’re ahead of Brighton in the able, then of course you’re right, and we absolutely should be. We have better players than them.
We’ve just watched Daniel Farke’s Norwich absolutely school us in how to play football, they took the game to us and only Dubravka saved us from a comprehensive defeat. Again, that shouldn’t be happening. We have better players than Norwich so why is Bruce claiming we can’t attack them?
We have an £80m front line and two wonderful ball playing centre backs who he left out of the last two woeful Premier League performances. He has a central midfielder who was in line for a £50m move to Manchester United in the summer whose form has fallen of a cliff.
Now, there may be various reasons for this but no one can say for sure Bruce’s coaching definitely isn’t one of them. Also in central midfield, what about the progressive attacking football Swansea played under more positive minded coaches with Shelvey and Ki in midfield, they were a joy to watch and regularly finished mid table and even won a trophy. Despite Shelvey’s decent goal scoring exploits they’ve look unable to pass a ball in some matches this season and of course Ki has since departed. Today he’s also claimed he’s no closer to playing how he wants.
Now obviously he hasn’t had much time to work with these following players yet but he’s just been given an attacking left back who started last season’s Champions League final, a winger who cost Inter Milan £20m a few months ago and a central midfielder who a couple of seasons ago was starring in a team that finished 2nd in the Bundesliga, so forgive me if you think I’m being over negative but Steve Bruce can stop with the “woe is me I don’t have the players” routine.
It’s nonsense. Does anyone honestly, hand on heart think any players have improved under Bruce?
The only case for argument is Almiron in terms of his goal scoring feats, but under Bruce he still looks like a little lost boy.
We have every right as fans to expect an improvement in the coming weeks and Bruce can have no excuses. He’s selling this group of players short.