The Steve Bruce media propaganda machine has been working overtime recently. The ex-players, pundits and so called experts who range from the misinformed to the irrelevant and clearly don’t watch us play, have all been coming out of the woodwork to defend their mate “Brucey”, while simultaneously insulting our fan base without any facts to back up their argument. It really is becoming a parody of itself.
After Mark Lawrenson mistook our displeasure at watching Bruce spend more money than any manager in our history, yet consistently continue to take the team backwards as some kind of arrogant entitlement to annual Champions League football, we now have Robbie Savage penning a piece in The Mirror in which he claims Bruce deserves credit for the “solid if unspectacular job” he’s doing at our beloved club.
Well, he’s half right, but we’ll get into the numbers behind that “solid” nonsense later. I’m not going to bother to pick apart his article, you can do that yourself. I’ll stick to something Bruce’s media pals don’t deal in, which is facts, but here’s a link to the article: (You can read it here.)
What’s more, is that Savage has posted this article on his Twitter page and has written above the link “Come on then Newcastle fans, please read, I’ve tried to understand the situation this week?”.
In fairness his does state that with the attacking talent we have, we should be more entertaining, yet he someone manages to do that while passive-aggressively making us feel that we’re lucky to have Bruce because we’ve been relegated twice in 11 years. So that being said, I’ll respond to your kind request of “come on then Newcastle fans” Robbie. I’m more than happy to.
In case you aren’t familiar with Savage’s media work, he presents BBC Five Live’s 606, where him and fellow agitator Chris Sutton ask fans to call in, and then if they don’t agree with them, they all too often arrogantly, ignorantly and incorrectly belittle them for their opinion. When they are both presented with facts and have no way out they both resort to a “we know more than you” motif. It isn’t just Newcastle fans by the way.
I’ve always been curious about Savage’s eagerness to leap to Bruce’s defence. I wonder if it’s born out of guilt that back in January 2005, he forced a move to Blackburn from Bruce’s Birmingham City, while the Blues were neck deep in a relegation battle.
(Spoiler alert, they lost said battle and went down).
Maybe after letting Bruce down 15 years ago, he now feels the need to protect him from all of the big bad Newcastle fans and our whimsical pie in the sky dreams of ambition and tactical nous being present in our football club’s manager.
So let’s look at the numbers of Steve Bruce’s Newcastle, and really try to understand why it is that we don’t rate Bruce, his own dreadful record over 20 odd years of management not withstanding.
Last season, his first season, despite the media using such adjectives as “outstanding”, “wonderful”, and “excellent” to name a few when describing Bruce’s performance, we finished on less points than the season before that. We also conceded more goals and chances, scored less goals and made less chances, had less possession, and our goalkeeper made over 30% more saves than the previous season. The most in the league in fact. Steve Bruce made us a worse team in his first season in every possible aspect. While there are many caveats to this, and some aren’t all down to Bruce, like the loss of Rondon and Perez, this is a cold hard fact.
Looking at this seasons numbers in terms of footballing metrics shows some even more alarming and unsurprisingly consistent declines under the guidance of Bruce. The following information came from The Athletic’s chief analyst Tom Worville, who appeared on last weeks episode of the brilliant Pod On The Tyne podcast, and it makes for interestingly grim listening and reading.
Firstly in attack this season, we have had 43 shots on goal this season. The lowest in the PL so far this season.
We’re averaging 7.7 attempts at goal per game, which is down from 10.5 last season. Some rare positive news is our expected goals is actually up from 20th last season to 15th this term, which can be simply attributed to Callum Wilson getting on the end of chances instead of Joelinton.
Our speed in transition from defence to attack is way down, we have gone from one of the quickest to the slowest. Almiron’s absence and ASM playing out of position, both Bruce decisions, play big parts in this according to Worville and The Athletic’s excellent pair Taylor Payne and Chris Waugh.
(Side note Robbie, your mate Sutton ridiculed a Newcastle fan last week who said Saint Maximin didn’t suit a number 10 role and is more effective out wide. This is a common viewpoint held amongst almost all knowledgeable NUFC fans, yet Sutton told him to “get real” and that he didn’t know better than Bruce. Well if you could pass the message on to Chris that 3 other objective and knowledgeable journalists who know better than him respectively and factually agree with us, I’d be grateful).
Moving on, our possession in the final 3rd is down to 29% per game, which is not only the worst in the PL this season, it’s the worst managed by a PL team at this stage of the season for 5 years.
Our possession in the final 3rd also accounts for just 5% for our total possession of the ball so far this season, which is absolutely woeful. It also shows how poor we are at pressing the opposition high up the pitch. In fact we are the worst in the league at turning over possession in the oppositions half and turning it into chances.
As for the defence, it’s worth remembering that we had the best back-line outside the top 6 in both 2017/18 and 2018/19. Bruce managed to get that down to 13th last year with essentially the same personnel, certainly at centre back, all while Martin Dubravka was the busiest goalkeeper in the league. However it’s this season’s metrics which tell a thoroughly depressing tale of just how much we are actually regressing.
We have conceded more attempts at goal than any other PL team this season, and Karl Darlow and Fede Fernandez have made more saves and blocks respectively than any other goalkeeper or defender. Now while this has been reported several times and is hardly surprising, this following fact is simply astonishing.
I think a common theme amongst our fan base is the annoyance that whatever nonsense Bruce spouts in his pressers, or whatever formation or system we are apparently playing, the only game plan we can see is one of allowing the opposition as much of the ball as they want, and hope they don’t score. This lacklustre and passive approach is summed up by the fact that on average, we allow the opposition 21 passes of the ball in our own half before winning back possession.
To put that into context, think about how often you see Newcastle United footballers make 21 consecutive passes of the football to each other in the opposition’s half.If we make 5 I’m up off my chair, but 21?! In the Premier League? I’d be popping the Dom Pérignon man. You surely will not be surprised to learn that this statistic also places us at the bottom of the pile, by some distance.
So there we have Steve Bruce’s Newcastle United in irrefutable numbers. It’s also irrefutable that he is a proven failure as a manager, with the worst win percentage of any PL manager that has overseen 100 games or more. It’s also a mathematical certainty that teams with these kinds of numbers eventually come unstuck. We’ve won 8 of the last 31 PL games, which is fortunately spread over 2 seasons. If that record was in 1 season, we would almost certainly get relegated.
Bruce has no plan A, let alone a plan B. There is no ethos, no blueprint and no conviction in his selections. Not one player has improved under Bruce’s tenure, not one, while several have gone backwards.
If we have a bad game, he simply throws the players under the bus, blames the keyboard warriors for making his job harder, and then rips it all up and starts again, which shows a lack of confidence in his own ability if anything.
Steve Bruce’s Newcastle United side is a dreadful football team that contains good football players, and is floating on an unexplainable tide of luck, and unconventional and unsustainable football that ultimately is only going to end one way. Maybe not this year, but eventually. There are tactically more astute managers in League One who would get more out of this squad of players, and believe me we know, we’ve watched first hand in the last calendar year as Rochdale, Oxford United and more recently Newport County ran rings round us at times, and had our backs to the wall, forcing us to two replays and a penalty shootout respectively.
So now, we await next week for Friday’s press conference where Bruce will blame everyone but himself for the pathetic defeat at Southampton, then likely employ his 6th formation of the season against Chelsea due to the players apparently not being good enough to play how he wants. It’s nonsense that any fan of any club Bruce has ever managed will testify to.
So “come on” Robbie Savage, did you really try to understand?