At the start of the 2020-21 campaign, Steve Bruce signalled his intention to play attacking, free-flowing football. With a number of new recruits, including prolific striker Callum Wilson and Bournemouth star Ryan Fraser, fans were hoping that the former Birmingham boss would be able to fulfil his promise and deliver some much-needed entertainment at St. James’ Park this season.
However, despite a promising start, which saw them ease past West Ham and fire three past struggling Burnley, recent performances have failed to live up to expectations, and the club’s attacking output has dwindled over the last couple of months. As of January 11th, the Magpies have a fairly comfortable eight-point advantage over the bottom three and are currently priced at 24/5 for relegation in the latest English Premier League odds on Betfair Exchange. Although their ability to pick up points against fellow bottom-half sides should enable them to avoid the dreaded drop this time around, their approach and lack of urgency in the final third has left some supporters thoroughly underwhelmed.
Although Bruce made a handful of changes to his starting XI, the Toon failed to muster a single shot on target during the first half of their recent FA Cup tie with Arsenal. Striker Andy Carroll looked threatening throughout and was described as “Outstanding” by BBC pundit Dion Dublin, but the former West Ham man still managed to spurn a couple of golden opportunities despite a much-improved second-half showing.
Newcastle also produced a limp display against Brentford in the EFL Cup at the end of December, with Bruce’s men firing in just seven efforts from inside the box against the Championship outfit. It’s now five matches, across all competitions, since the Tynesiders produced more than two shots on target in a game, and they’ve also failed to register in four of those fixtures.
Only West Brom have clocked a lower XG so far, with the Magpies producing a very disappointing average of 0.86 at St. James’ Park. The struggling Baggies are also one of just two Premier League sides to have fired in fewer shots than Bruce’s men this campaign, and with just 8.94 efforts attempted per 90 minutes, fans are crying out for more creativity and urgency in the final third.
Callum Wilson is the only player in black and white to attempt two shots per game, and although Joelinton is averaging 1.4 efforts per 90 minutes, his return of just a single goal isn’t good enough for this level.
Slow starts have also been a running theme this season, and they’ve been leading at half-time in just two of their opening 17 contests. They’ve also handed the initiative to the opposition on 11 occasions, and Bruce must find a way to get more out of his side in the opening 45 minutes.
Despite only suffering two defeats against fellow bottom-half sides, Newcastle fans have still been left largely underwhelmed by their side’s performances this year. Bruce’s promise of attacking, free-flowing football has struggled to get off the ground, and their penchant for sitting back and inviting pressure has simply added to the frustration.
There’s still time to turn things around, and although they are perfectly entrenched in mid-table, Newcastle must offer more in the final third. Their attacking output is one of the lowest in the division, and fans have become incredibly exasperated by their side’s lack of nous in and around the opposition’s box.