What on earth is going on at Newcastle United?

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Newcastle are slowly sleepwalking to relegation as the manager Steve Bruce demonstrates his incapability to alter tactics.
Newcastle are slowly sleepwalking to relegation as the manager Steve Bruce demonstrates his incapability to alter tactics.

Abysmal performances in recent months have led to a catastrophic scenario for the Magpies as the Toon Army faces a legitimate prospect of going down to the championship.

Manager Steve Bruce has finally spoken a fortnight after Newcastle’s 3-0 loss away at Brighton as he remains defiant of staying at the helm even if the club goes down to the championship.

Newcastle United, a club steeped in rich football history is battling relegation as they face Spurs on Sunday in what could be defined as the match of the season for the Magpies. The club has failed to get a positive result in their last 6 fixtures as both the Manager and the Players share the burden of responsibility.

Fans are tired of the defensive sideway-passing football at display at St ‘James Park and are calling for Steve Bruce to be sacked even if he manages to keep them up. If the Magpies get relegated, it would be the third time in a span of 15 years that the club goes down with Mike Ashley at the helm, who took over the club in 2007 for £135 million.

Newcastle aspirations of Mid-table finish are over as the Toons are set to battle for their existence in the Primer league.

Once an English powerhouse, Newcastle United is the 9th most successful club in England. The club enjoyed its most successful spell in the early 1900s where they managed to win 4 league titles and 3 F.A. cups. In the premier league era, the club enjoyed its best period between 2000 to 2004 under Sir Bobby Robson where they finished in the top 4 for consecutive seasons and managed to upset teams like Juventus and Barcelona in the champions league.

Newcastle United has been a midtable club since their promotion in the 2015/16 season. Their league finishes of 10th 13th and 13th in the previous 3 seasons respectively showcases their current ambitions or rather lack of it.

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Let’s talk about 4 problems with Newcastle United that have led to the current crisis:-

1)Ashley’s Ambition

It’s apparent that since Mike Ashley took over the club, he has aimed to run it as a successful self-sustaining business often overlooking the footballing side of it. The club in the last decade has developed a philosophy of buying foreign players for a bargain and offloading them a couple of seasons later for a profit. This commotion has led to the core being shuffled every few seasons, affecting results on the pitch. Mike Ashley clearly sees the club as a business venture and has multiple times in the past tried to sell it off.

Failed takeover bids in the past couple of seasons has only added to the pressure from the fans as Mike Ashley has made his intentions clear that he wants to sell the club in the near future. Until the club is bought by new ownership it is expected to be stuck in limbo, trodding between the premier league and the championship.

According to most of the fans, he is the man responsible for the current state of the club. In modern football, the club owner plays a crucial role in achieving the ambitions of the club, perhaps equally important as the manager. It’s the owner’s aspirations that a manager aims to fulfill and the owner is expected to provide financial backing to achieve the set goals. Newcastle lacks an owner that cares about how the club is run and his lack of passion is evident in the decisions taken by the club on daily basis. Some fans might even relish the prospect of Newcastle getting relegated just so they could see a change in ownership and management.

2)Sacking Rafa

When Rafa Benitez took charge of the club midway through the season, Newcastle were in dire straits facing relegation. He could not manage to save them from going down but he immediately brought them up the following season by winning the championship. During his 3 year tenure at the club, he managed to imprint an identity of methodical counter-attacking football for which fans adored him.

It’s noteworthy that during his time at the club, he had a net spend of -£11 million. He finished 10th and 13th in the two seasons he was in the premier league at the club which was quite impressive considering he wasn’t provided with the necessary backing from the top. His contract was run down by the club as he left in the summer of 2019 being replaced by Steve Bruce. After his exit, Benitez revealed that he left the club due to differences with Mike Ashley, describing him as “a businessman who I don’t believe really cares about his team.”

3)Bad Recruitment

Since Rafa’s exit, the club has a net spend of over £100 million. They have invested heavily in unproven prospects like Joe Linton, Miguel Almiron, and Yoshinori Mutō to name a few. Bruce’s defensive tactics do not exactly pander to these prospect’s more creative skillset, which relies on playing with the ball on the feet. It feels like the manager is trying to fit square pegs in round holes.

Newcastle has massively overspent on these players and none of the signings in the last 2 seasons has yet to solidify themselves in the first team. Joelinton and Almiron are expected to stay on the fringes and Muto is on loan at Eibar in Spain. Allan Saint-Maximin is the only signing under Bruce that has shown glimpses of magic but even he has struggled to show his creativity in a side which parks the bus, only attacking on the counter.

4)Bruce blunders

Since Newcastle’s 3-0 loss to Brighton, fans are calling for Steve Bruce to be sacked. According to most of the fans, Bruce’s presence epitomizes what’s wrong with the club currently. It is agreeable that Newcastle has been unfortunate with the existing number of injuries. But the manager’s lack of ambition is evident with the results as Newcastle has drawn way too many games which they should have won this season.

Villa, Wolves, Palace at Home, and West Brom away are a few of the examples in recent weeks where the club has failed to get valuable points or got held to a draw. Newcastle’s inability to break down defenses is evident in the stats as the team currently ranks worst at total passes and chances created in the league.

Steve Bruce has come under alot scrutiny in recent weeks due to Newcastle United’s abysmal performance.

Under Bruce, there is only one mode of play in which the team sits back and punts the ball long in possession, hoping to catch the opponent on a break. If the opponent has more quality then it’s understandable, but doing that against lesser teams has led to the club dropping valuable points which has inevitably led them to this situation.

If Fulham manages to win against Bielsa’s high flying Leeds on the weekend and the result doesn’t go in favor of Newcastle then the Magpies are in for a ride for remainder of the season. In the most likely outcome , the curtains will be drawn at the final game of the season where Newcastle travel to Craven Cottage to face fellow relegation contender Fulham.

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