Steve Bruce constantly claims that NUFC are a ‘work in progress’ – but persistently we see him put out a different team, using a different system.
There’s no identity, and that’s shown over the last six Premier League games – despite a series of solid, yet sometimes fortunate, results.
Compared to clubs of our stature who consistently out-perform us, the idea of identity (or lack of it in our case) stands out.
Look at Wolves for example, they always set out with wing-backs and a philosophy of pressing football. Leeds don’t have a better team than us man-for-man, that’s incontestable. However, Bielsa’s rigid 4-1-4-1 formation is strict and every player knows their role – they work as one and as a result they’ve had a brilliant start to the season.
Now we turn back to NUFC’s system – or the lack thereof. Again West Ham and Brighton, we used a 4-4-2. Brighton exposed our defensive weakness, so Bruce went to a 5-4-1 against Spurs.
In fear of being negative the next game, he again swapped to a 4-2-3-1 against Burnley. We might’ve won, and played well doing so, but Bruce wanted another change – moving to a 4-5-1 against Manchester United – a game which saw him shove Joelinton on the right-hand side of a five-man midfield just a few days after he’d put in his best display in a black and white shirt in a No 10 role. Baffling – and the Brazilian suffered as a result.
My frustrations came to a head on Sunday. Bruce played a series of attackers (although most were way out of position) and changed it once again, playing a 3-5-1-1 formation. We got a point thanks to a late bit of brilliance from Murphy, but it was a side full of square pegs in round holes were many in the system looked pretty lost.
Nine times out of 10 we’d have lost that 2-0. It has to stop – we need a system. I hate the comparisons, but it was the rigidity of Rafa’s 5-2-3 system that brought him so much success in the latter stages of the 18/19 season. The players knew EXACTLY what their role was and how they were supposed to carry it out. There was a clear plan.
I think at times the Bruce criticism can be harsh, but he can’t keep playing the ‘work in progress’ card when he can’t seem to settle on a system.
OK, it takes time for new signings to gel, but how is a team expected to improve week on week when the players in it are often being asked to play a slightly different role every weekend?