If you were wondering why Newcastle conceded against Wolves and only ended up with a draw then you needn’t worry because Steve Bruce has answered this for you already.
Bruce’s hit list of blame for this match covers Ritchie, Lewis, Dubravka and Joelinton.
Don’t worry though because he’s a man manager specialist and, despite numerous reports of players falling out with him, this sort of behaviour won’t come back to bite him.
Blame #1: According to Bruce, Matt Ritchie wasn’t able to pass instructions “to the team quick enough on how we were doing it” before the equaliser.
Of course, the main issue for this goal was the positioning of players with Hayden being dragged into the right back position and players being shifted around. Maybe, if it was vitally important to get this message across, shouting instructions from the sidelines could have helped? It’s not like the crowd was particularly loud at that point…
Check out this interview with Lascelles about the issue with instructions. The interviewer notes that everyone can be heard in an empty stadium which raises the question about why the instructions weren’t clear:
Of course, this isn’t a one off situation in Bruce’s tenure and this is infamously happened in his first game when Jetro Willems was confusingly deployed in a midfield role.
Blame #2: Young Jamal Lewis was also at fault and, in Bruce’s eyes, he can’t even manage to accomplish his basic job as he says “First of all, we should stop the cross, that’s the basic for a full-back”.
Now, there’s nothing particularly wrong with analysing what led to conceding a goal. As a manager, I would expect him to look at the build-up and understand what went wrong but the last comment is the one that is disrespectful especially when compared to how he softens his blame of Dubravka afterwards.
Saying that Lewis has failed to do as basic thing doesn’t really promise a detailed look later on, does it? If Bruce believes that Lewis should be to block a cross because that’s his basic job, then it’s hard to see how they’ll be anymore of an inspection of how Lewis was beaten and how he can improve from it.
I guarantee that Dummett will start the next match. I personally think that’s a good idea but only because he’s capable of working more independently from Bruce’s management.
Blame #3: Bruce makes sure to throw blame on his goalkeeper once again by claiming he could “have done better”…
He’s not going to drop Dubravka because, according to reports, he might’ve burnt bridges with Darlow so he softens his criticism while still maintaining blame.
Note that he doesn’t tell us how Dubravka messed up on a “basic” action for a goalkeeper like he tells us that Lewis messed up on something “basic for a full back”.
Blame #4: This one reeks of knowing a player’s unpopularity and deciding to further scapegoat them.
Bruce’s comments on Joelinton’s near goal was this “He should score. It’s a big, huge opportunity.”
Now, I fully believe that this was a case of great defending over bad striking. In this instance, Joelinton did everything right that he has been criticised for bar actually scoring. He was in the box at the right time, he found space and he beat the keeper. It just so happened that Saiss pulled off a fantastic piece of defending to clear it off the line.
Even if it were Joelinton’s fault, what does Bruce’s comment actually achieve?
As it stands, it looks like we have our first choice three of Wilson, Saint-Maximin and Almiron unavailable for a significant amount of time.
Jacob Murphy and Joelinton combined to create a very good chance and, instead of being encouraged by their manager for this to go forward into our next match, Bruce’s response is to ignore Murphy and blame Joelinton.
Bruce was presented with a golden opportunity to think long-term and praise the players who will likely be the only ones available for future games so that they could go on with some confidence, but instead he decided to deal with the short-term and try and shift blame away from himself again.
We play West Brom next Sunday and I firmly believe that Bruce is going to carry out his blaming on both Lewis and Ritchie.
The only reason that I think Dubravka and Joelinton will start is because there’s no other options available to him.