Opinion: How on loan Newcastle man dented permanent prospects against City

Arriving at St James’ Park on loan from Schalke in January might have been a relief for Nabil Bentaleb. The Miners, managed by David Wagner, endured a torrid season, and occasionally flirted with the relegation places before finishing 12th in the Bundesliga.

His stint in the northeast began with a steady start, though the 25-year-old former Tottenham Hotspur midfielder grew in stature upon returning to the Premier League. His sublime performance, controlling the midfield against Bournemouth was incredibly promising for Bentaleb, giving Steve Bruce an alternative to Isaac Hayden in midfield.

However, when facing considerably more steely opposition in the form of Manchester City on Wednesday, the Algerian’s weaknesses were exposed. Only three outfield players who started the match against the Sky Blues recorded a lower pass accuracy than the playmakers’ 74.4 per cent.

Unlike against the Cherries, when put under intense pressure from the Sky Blues, Bentaleb could not find an escape route and ended up conceding possession all too frequently. The worst of these mistakes was made in the dying embers of the match, with the score already at 4-0, a loose pass from the Algerian international was picked off by Bernardo Silva 40 yards from goal.

The Portuguese ace wasted no time in breaking forwards, and with City three on one, the outcome was inevitable. The Premier League is brutally unforgiving, and lapses in concentration such as those are punished all too often.

In attacking areas Bentaleb was equally inept; he did not manage a key pass, nor did he dribble around an opponent, with his only contribution an unsuccessful touch to concede possession, as per WhoScored.

The 25-year-old has proven particularly ineffective against the Premier League’s elite sides since arriving at St James’ Park,.Newcastle have now conceded 11 goals in his five starts, with nine of those coming against Manchester City and Arsenal. He was utterly overrun in the engine room on Wednesday, as was the case with the Gunners hammering, and he cannot be allowed to be a passenger in such high-profile drubbings.

Not only the result, but the performance on Wednesday too hurt Bentaleb’s chances of securing a permanent move to Tyneside. The midfielder may have opportunities against former side Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool to restore his credibility, but if all he can offer is bright showings against the divisions’ weaker outfits, he should not be returning to St James’ Park next term.

This article was originally posted here

“The Steve Bruce effect” – Some Newcastle fans malign Man City’s record-breaking performance

Manchester City tore Newcastle to shreds last night in what was a frankly embarrassing display for Steve Bruce and the side he selected.

Fortunately, no fans were able to make the journey to the Etihad Stadium, and the likelihood is those who tuned in watched with disdain as a rampant Citizens side set a new Premier League record with their 94 per cent pass accuracy.

After the match, Opta shared a map of Pep Guardiola’s side’s 840 attempted passes, of which a whopping 787 were successful. The statistic highlighted the squalid nature of the Magpies’ performance and some fans took to Twitter to express their disdain at the account Newcastle gave of themselves.

Some supporters scrutinised the way Bruce deployed the Magpies against the Sky Blues, suggesting that his tactics played straight into the hands of the opposition. They believe Newcastle may have made it easy for City and invited pressure upon themselves by failing to hunt the ball back when out of possession.

Meanwhile, another fan referenced the previous encounter between the two sides in the FA Cup, just ten days prior, when Newcastle produced a similarly abject performance and were fortunate to lose 2-0.

Others were quick to point out that when Rafael Benitez was in charge, he at least made Manchester City work for their results. Newcastle even beat Guardiola’s side 1-0, the last team to do so in the Premier League on their route to becoming champions. While this is a fair reflection of the previous two meetings, Bruce did oversee a thrilling 2-2 draw with City earlier in the campaign.

But for some fans it was the lack of influence Newcastle exerted on the rare occasions they did have possession, retaining 26 per cent, which infuriated them most. While the Toon did muster six shots, only one of those forced a save from Ederson, as per WhoScored.

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Report: Newcastle man lauds impact of Magpies trio

Newcastle United have been one of the Premier League’s primary beneficiaries of the break in the season due to the Covid19 pandemic, with only Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal having accumulated more points since the division’s resumption than the Toon’s 11.

Steve Bruce has turned the Magpies’ poor fortunes around and has got this side playing the expansive attacking football fans have been craving all season long, scoring 11 in their last five matches. The Red Devils are the only other top-flight side yet to lose since football returned with Bruce guiding the Toon to three wins and two draws.

He believes his switch in Newcastle’s system has provided the key to success and commented on how it had given the squad a boost.

What did he say?

Speaking to the Chronicle, Bruce said: “The way we’ve played, some of the goals we’ve scored and the fact that players have enjoyed that bit of freedom this system enables them to have, rather than be the way they have for a couple of years now, we’ve had a lift.”

He continued by adding: “It has come together with Allan Saint-Maximin, Miguel Almiron and Jonjo Shelvey have that bit of freedom.”

Strutting their stuff

A critical factor in the transition from counterattack merchants to a front foot first style has been the influence of Miguel Almiron, who’s helped Newcastle average 52.5 per cent possession in their last four fixtures, well above their average for the season of 41.9 per cent.

The 26-year-old has been moved to a more central role, often operating in behind Dwight Gayle or Andy Carroll, allowing him more options in possession. As a reward for the switch, fans and the manager will have been delighted to see the typically goal-shy playmaker find the back of the net in consecutive matches against strugglers Bournemouth and West Ham.

Saint-Maximin has grabbed the plaudits having also increased his output by scoring once, as well as assisting three, but Shelvey’s string of fabulous displays cannot be overlooked. There are few other players for the Magpies who can boast such mesmerising vision and range of passing, and with more options to aim for the midfielder has been slicing through opponents at will.

Impressively for him, but not so much the forwards, Shelvey is still this sides’ top scorer withj six Premier League strikes, and one more goal would give him the best return of his top-flight career.

This article was originally posted here

“He’s been outrageous” – Some Newcastle fans hail polarising figure’s post-break form

Having collected two points in the final five matches before the Premier League season was halted due to the Covid19 pandemic, few would have expected Newcastle United to return in such blistering form.

The Magpies are yet to lose in their first five matches back, racking up 11 points and eyeing up a top-half finish, having secured survival with five games of the campaign remaining.

Though he is often a player who splits opinion amongst the Newcastle faithful due to his languid style of play, Jonjo Shelvey’s shackles have been released with Steve Bruce switching to a more attacking formation, and his incredible vision and passing range have left some fans purring.

Newcastle United’s official twitter account posted a compilation of some exquisite touches and deft passes the playmaker has contributed since football returned and the footage has left some members of the Toon Army salivating.

One fan had suggested that it is not only his vision that makes Shelvey such a threat but also his ability to play the pass few others can see, which is shown by completing 1.8 key passes per match, the highest of any Newcastle player.

Others also commented on his upturn in form which has seen the playmaker both score and assists in his last two matches, extending his lead as the Magpies’ top scorer on six strikes for the season, as per WhoScored.

His fitness and commitment have often been a stick people use to beat the Englishman with, though Bruce has tried in the past to explain how people have the wrong perception of Shelvey, it seems the Newcastle fans remain divided with some commending his stamina and motivation. In contrast, others suggest he has wained late on in matches.

However, there are a select few supporters who the midfield maestro is yet to convince, many of whom cite consistency as the primary weakness in the former Liverpool and Swansea midfielders’ game.

For others though playing alongside the industrious Isaac Hayden, who is generally the antithesis of Shelvey either winning the ball back or quickly shutting the opposition down to relinquish opposing players of time and space, evidenced by his average of two tackles per match, makes the pair an ideal partnership.

Regardless of your opinion on Shelvey, it’s difficult to argue that with his outstanding long-range passing, of which no other outfield player completes more, 5.6 per match, he brings some unique attributes to the Newcastle United squad.

This article was originally posted here

Opinion: Newcastle squad player must return from wilderness to face Manchester City

Steve Bruce’s men line up against Manchester City this evening just ten days after their crusting FA Cup quarter-final defeat at the hands of the champions.

On that occasion, Pep Guardiola’s side made light work of the Magpies, but the good news for Newcastle United is that with safety assured on 42 points they can play with freedom knowing that the result has little implication.

However, the bad news for Bruce is that many of the Magpies’ regulars are major injury doubts for the encounter, including Miguel Almiron and Allan Saint-Maximin. In the duo’s posssible absence, he must look towards Christian Atsu and bring the Ghanaian speedster out of the wilderness.

Atsu has not featured since making two substitute appearances against Oxford United in the FA Cup, starting a meagre six Premier League matches in total this term, as per WhoScored. Over his four seasons at St James’ Park, the winger has proven to be a valuable squad player regularly making an impact off the bench, as he has done this term again, providing 12 substitute appearances. His blistering pace has been used to stretch opposition sides late on, but the main criticism of his play has been a lack of end product, highlighted by having scored a pitiful three Premier League goals in 79 appearances.

However, considering he’s often introduced to games late on, it can be challenging to adjust when being thrust into the melee with time ticking away. Evidence to suggest that Atsu can be effective from the first minutes comes via his assists this season, of which he has three, all have come in matches he’s started.

Another positive for the 28-year-old is that his Premier League assists have come against Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool and Manchester City, indicating that he thrives when playing against the Premier League’s elite and is most dangerous when afforded space to break into by the opposition.

Having not featured since the resumption of the top-flight, Atsu should be raring to go, though possibly short of match fitness. Bruce has promised to rotate his squad for the final five matches of the season, and with Almiron and Saint-Maximin injury doubts, Atsu could be the man for the big occasion once more.

The former Chelsea player is entering the final year of his contract next season and he really ought to start proving his worth to management and fans, if Bruce gives him a chance and Atsu fails to impress he could be running out of time at St James’ Park.

This article was originally posted here

Many Newcastle fans left drooling after club posts footage of “BruceBall in full swing”

It’s one of those goals that just gets better and better every time that you see it.

And is perhaps an indicator of just how well we can play on any given day, it’s just a shame that we haven’t seen more of it throughout the season.

Alright, it’s not quite the return of ‘The Entertainers’ just yet, but who knows, even they had to start somewhere.

Should Bruce be in the Manager of the Year conversation?



Give over!

Give over!

The Newcastle United Twitter page put out our first goal against West Ham United at the weekend, and it gave fans a chance to talk about just how good this team can be, with many attributing it to the influence of the manager, certainly a far cry from some of the stereotypes that have been placed upon him in the past.

Let’s just hope that we can see more of it tonight against Manchester City, although something tells me we might be on the receiving end of it, but hopefully not.

What about you? What do you make of this goal and are you annoyed that we haven’t been seeing this stuff all season so far?

This article was originally posted here

Report: Newcastle star’s plan to bounce back from turgid Man City FA Cup exit

Newcastle begin their tricky final five Premier League fixtures with a trip to the Etihad Stadium to face Manchester City this evening.

Magpies supporters can be proud of their recent record against the behemoth, having drawn a thrilling encounter 2-2 earlier in the campaign, which included delightful strikes from both Jonjo Shelvey and Kevin De Bruyne.

However, ten days ago, when the two sides met in the FA Cup quarter-final, it was a different story. What was meant to be a joyous occasion for the St James’ Park faithful – having miraculously reached the final eight of the prestigious trophy for the first time in 14 years – ended as a damp squib with a convincing 2-0 win for the Sky Blues.

Emil Krafth did not feature on that occasion, but the defender had reassuring words for fans ahead of the Magpies’ trip to face Pep Guardiola’s side this time around.

What did he say?

Speaking to the NUFC TV the Swedish right-back said: “When you play against such a good team that’s going to have the ball a lot, when we get the ball we need to try and keep it as much as possible. Otherwise, it’s going to be a long night.”

Krafth added: “We just have to be tight and narrow, and when we get the ball, we have to keep it.”

Using Southampton as inspiration

Ralph Hasenhuttl provided the blueprint for mid-table sides aiming to overcome Manchester City when his Saints beat the Sky Blues 1-0 on Sunday. They may have only had 26 percent possession against Guardiola’s men, but whenever they lost the ball, the hosts harried the second-placed side into submission, consistently limiting their passing options.

Krafth’s suggestions follow a similar pattern to the game plan Southampton implemented to perfection at the weekend, which proved to be significantly more effective than when Newcastle dropped deep, reverting to a back five, which also allowed City freedom in the FA Cup.

Remaining compact between the lines of midfield and defence was an essential aspect of the Saints’ tactics and something Bruce should look to replicate.

Furthermore, it is imperative Bruce gets his side to retain possession with greater effect and hurt the opposition with their limited opportunities on the ball. If the Magpies ignore Krafth’s suggestions and fail to follow Southampton’s lead, then they risk a repeat of their humiliating cup exit.

This article was originally posted here

Opinion: Final five matches give Newcastle loanee perfect opportunity to prove his worth

When he arrived on loan in January from Inter Milan, Valentino Lazaro may have been hoping to feature more frequently than the two Premier League starts he has managed for Newcastle so far, and he is believed to be unhappy at having not done so.

Then again, most fans, and Steve Bruce himself, perceived the Austrian international to be a right wing-back, though the player revealed he thought, although he’s played that position for two years, he is better utilised further forwards. Perhaps even more surprisingly, the 24-year-old admitted he was trying to learn to play more defensively. Nevertheless, with Bruce selecting four at the back, more often than not, Lazaro has been left looking on from the bench.

Though when he has featured as a winger, the Austrian speedster has shown promise, scoring against West Bromwich Albion in the FA Cup, beating Aaron Ramsdale to fire in Newcastle’s fourth against Bournemouth, as well as rattling the bar with a vicious long-range effort in that encounter. Lazaro remains determined to prove himself in the division and fortunately for him, Bruce has promised to rotate his starting eleven for the final five matches, meaning he may get more minutes than his 73 in five games since the Premier League resumed.

Aside from his two goals for the Magpies, Lazaro has not been given enough opportunities to outline what value ha may have to offer. In substitute appearances, he’s appeared diligent and eager to please, while retaining a tidy 82.6 per cent pass accuracy. However, the main issue has been those passes have not troubled the opposition often enough, playing a meagre 0.4 key passes per 90 minutes. While his 0.4 crosses per match are the third highest in the Newcastle squad, level with regulars DeAndre Yedlin and Sean Longstaff, this only serves to highlight how infrequently Bruce’s side cross the ball, preferring lower risk options in the final third, via WhoScored.

Lazaro’s eye for goal could be what tempts the Toon to attempt to extend his stay at St James’ Park, as Newcastle have been desperately short of regular scorers this term, with Jonjo Shelvey leading the way on six strikes. If the Austrian international can continue his excellent conversion rate when given more starts, then the Magpies would have a greater incentive to keep the loanee on Tyneside.

Otherwise, Lazaro may well be heading back to Serie A wondering what could have been.

This article was originally posted here

“Just give them the three points”- Many Newcastle fans left devastated over latest injury news

I’m not entirely sure why fans are getting so upset about this news.

If you take a look at Man City’s recent record against us, should we really be expecting anything different? Plus, we’re mathematically safe, so unless fans think that we have an outside chance of qualifying for Europe (we are only six points off seventh place), I’m not sure what all the fuss is about.

Speaking to the press ahead of our game with Manchester City tonight, Steve Bruce outlined the latest injury news for the Mags, including a less than shocking update for one player:

“Unfortunately we’ve picked up one or two. Almirón and Saint-Maximin in particular are struggling. Andy Carroll picked up a groin strain. Jamaal Lascelles has a sore ankle so we have a few.”

What will happen first?

Takeover approval

Takeover approval

PL season finish

PL season finish

Bruce's 2nd signing

Bruce's 2nd signing

Whilst Andy Carroll getting injured shouldn’t really be any surprise to us at this point, to lose our top and joint-third goal scorers this season would be a bit of a blow in normal circumstances, but as I said earlier, I don’t think it’ll make too big a difference to our season.

But that hasn’t stopped these fans from going rather overboard with the reaction to the news.

What about you? What do you make of this update?

This article was originally posted here

Report: How Newcastle man went from toast of the Tyne to bit part player

Only 12 Premier League matches have been played by the Magpies since Newcastle United’s Fabian Schar scooped the North-East player of the year award for 2018/19 in January.

At the time it seemed a fitting choice, the Swiss central defender’s silky passing, with a 72.7 per cent accuracy, made him a valuable asset going forward for the Toon, while his level-headed reliable defending made him a deserved winner of the award. Yet somehow Schar now finds himself on the fringes of the squad, having appeared for a meagre five Premier League minutes since the division’s resumption.

To produce greater options further forwards Steve Bruce has cut Schar out of the equation at the back, reverting to a four-man defence. The Swiss international operated in a similar role to David Luiz under Antonio Conte, with protection either side of him giving the defender licence to play long raking passes, 4.1 on average per match, with only Jonjo Shelvey playing more, 5.6, excluding goalkeeper Martin Dubravka, via WhoScored.

Though since the switch in formation, talisman Jamaal Lascelles and Federico Fernandez have formed a budding partnership, which has excluded the 28-year-old. Lascelles and Fernandez have been selected alongside one another for the last six consecutive Premier League matches, during which they’ve kept three clean sheets. It is difficult to argue with the result the pair have produced together and they have formed a roadblock in front of the Swiss defender, but that does not mean Schar’s time at St James’ Park has ground to a halt.

Schar can still boast the highest average tackles per match of any Newcastle central defender this season, 1.9, over double Lascelles’, 0.6, as per WhoScored. Having provided 1.9 interceptions per 90 minutes as well, the 28-year-old also tops Newcastle’s charts in that department and has proven himself to be an adept ball winner.

Having altered the formation Bruce admitted to be prioritising options in forward areas, perhaps indicating why Schar’s excellent long-range passing is no longer required. Nevertheless, his consistent ability to regain possession still make the defender a valuable asset to the Magpies and should the form of Lascelles or Fernandez dip, an opportunity to break up the partnership and reclaim a spot in the starting eleven may present itself.

Positive news for Schar is that Bruce’s switch appears to be a purely tactical one, given he has outperformed his fellow centre backs statistically. The manager has also promised he will be rotating his squad in the final five matches of the season with safety all but secured, which may present Schar with the chance to snatch his spot in the starting eleven back permanently.

This article was originally posted here