A fortnight ago, Steve Bruce pledged that his new-look Newcastle side had now banished our tried and trusted five-at-the-back system – but will he be a man of his word ahead of today’s big clash with Manchester City?
Rafa Benitez had originally adopted this approach and Bruce reverted to a back five after a heavy defeat away to Leicester earlier on in the season, a formation that he has found to be effective ever since.
However, before the coronavirus outbreak, Bruce switched to a back four and the outcome has been positive, with the side looking a lot more potent going forward.
Bruce promised that our repetitive, tediously defensive days are now behind us before last weekend’s game with Sheffield United, but with a daunting fixture against Man City ahead of us, some feel he may have to go back on his word.
Here’s a reminder of what he said earlier this month when discussing the system he’ll use moving forward:
“The football was difficult to watch at times.
“But in our last three games, we changed the system and created a lot more chances. And we’ll stick with that formation for the rest of the season.
“Perhaps we may have to tinker when facing the bigger teams but we won’t be returning to five at the back.
“It served a purpose but it was never the way I wanted us to play.
“Hopefully, we’ll give our supporters back home something to get excited about.”
Personally, I don’t think Bruce should be condemned if he decides to play an extra defender today.
His most vitriolic critics out there with call him a hypocrite, but it could be a suicide mission to play four at the back against this City side and throw the kitchen sink from the offset.
We should play five at the back, but that does not mean we have to park the bus. City are there for the taking defensively – especially if Otamendi plays in Fernandinho’s absence.
Fabian Schar is excellent at distributing the ball from deep and he could be vital in a back three against the now-dethroned champions, with doubts over Hayden and Shelvey and Bentaleb’s rumoured suspension meaning we may need to be strong at centre-back to make up for a potential make-shift midfield.
Given the pace we have out wide in Saint-Maximin and Almiron, we should counter-attack their shaky defence at every possible opportunity, while trying to keep it tight at the back with a sturdy, well-drilled backline.
It will be interesting to see what team Bruce plays today, but if he decides to field a more conservative line-up, try to lay off from the criticism until the final-whistle at least.
Howay the lads!