It is becoming boring to discuss Steve Bruce as Newcastle manager.
There isn’t a balanced debate to be had, because anyone that watches the team on a weekly basis can see he is out of his depth. Yes, he has experience and on the whole, he can look at his career in the dugout with pride. He may have been a solid Premier League manager at one point, but he is no longer adaptable for this level.
Man management can only get you so far when you are competing with the very best coaches in the world. Bruce is a grandfather clock in a digital age and that is why there is no development, despite him talking about the team being a ‘work-in-progress’.
He has had 18 months and more than £100 million to mould the team in his image. Bruce has given the big talk about wanting to be more progressive and play on the front foot. However, the stats show that the completely opposite is true.
The word to describe Newcastle United is passive. We currently have a PPDA (passes per defensive action) of 19.05. This means that we allow the opposition team to have this many passes before attempting a tackle or interception and indicates that the team are told not to press. Rather, we sit back deep and put men behind the ball, allowing the opposition team to dictate the tempo.
Newcastle have the highest PPDA in the Premier League. To provide context, the energetic Leeds United have the lowest with 6.58. It is no surprise that the next two lowest are Brighton and Southampton. These are three teams that we have really struggled against and the major reason for the three defeats were the tactics employed by the manager.
In addition to our passive approach, we have the second lowest average share of possession and second lowest average number of shots per game. Sheffield United are the only team to rank lower in each.
For as much as Bruce has spoken about the difficulties of transforming the style of play, he is managing a squad of players that are now in their fourth season in the Premier League. He has an experience level in the squad that the likes of Marcelo Bielsa and Scott Parker can only dream of, yet he has been outperformed by both in the last seven days.
Perhaps there is no shame being outclassed by Bielsa, as he is one of the best coaches in the world. However, Parker is inexperienced and has to blend together a squad full of new signings in difficult circumstances. Yet, Fulham have managed to come to St James’ Park and play us off the park. We were fortunate again to receive a penalty and have an opposition player sent off.
Even after the red card, we looked passive and failed to create a single clear cut chance against a team in the relegation zone with ten men. In fact, it was the visitors that looked the more likely to grab the three points.
Newcastle United may not be in the relegation zone. We may be able to secure safety in spite of Steve Bruce, as we have a squad worthy of a mid table Premier League finish. However, as long as he is in charge, we are gambling with our Premier League status,