Pre-Match Review | Newcastle United (H)
Sheffield United vs Newcastle United - 05/12/2019
English Premier League
In Wilder's last meeting with Steve Bruce, it was a terrible 0-0 draw, I can imagine that is the last thing both sets of supporters will want on a cold December evening.
Last Time Out
Newcastle United vs Sheffield United - 05/04/2010
It feels like we probably should have played Newcastle at least once in the 9, almost 10 years since we last played each other. If you don’t count Chris Morgan’s testimonial.
Newcastle United were celebrating promotion back to the Premier League following their traumatic 2008/09 campaign which saw them go from Kevin Keegan to Joe Kinnear and then to Alan Shearer as managers. Which eventually led to them being relegated on the final day following a 1-1 draw with Aston Villa.
Chris Hughton was put in charge to oversee a swift return to England’s top flight and with Nottingham Forest drawing with Cardiff City earlier that day. The Toon’s fate was sealed irrespective of what happened at St James’ Park that evening.
Sheffield United were winding down in what was a disappointing season — still reeling from their own trauma following their failure in the 2009 playoff final against Burnley. They found themselves 10th in the table and with no real chance of the playoffs. They were 6 points off the top 6 with five games to go.
It looked like the late surge for the playoffs was on when Richard Cresswell put the Blades in front midway through the first half, nodding in a James Harper (I forgot about him) corner against the run of play.
Kevin Blackwell and his side would have been delighted to go into the interval with the lead, especially considering the pressure Newcastle were putting them under. But the hope of that was denied when Chris Morgan fouled Andy Carroll at a corner for a penalty on the cusp of half-time, with Peter Loverkrands scoring the resulting spot-kick. Those 2 had been at each other whenever Newcastle had a corner.
The Premier League quality continued to show against a Sheffield United side that fielded Marcel Seip that evening. Newcastle were continually finding holes in the Blades defence, a Danny Guthrie cross resulting in a game of Head Tennis for the Sheffield United defence before Danny Simpson nodded onto Kevin Nolan who scored with a finish that deserved to win any game.
Summer at Newcastle United
Notable Ins: Joelinton (£40m, TSG Hoffenheim), Allan Saint-Maximin (£16.5m, OGC Nice), Emil Krafth (£5m, Amiens), Andy Carroll (Free, West Ham United), Jetro Willems (Loan, Eintracht-Frankfurt)
Notable Outs: Ayoze Pérez (£30m, Leicester City), Joselu (Alaves), Mohamed Diame (Free, Al Ahli), Freddie Woodman (Loan, Swansea City), Jacob Murphy (Loan, Sheffield Wednesday), Achraf Laazar (Loan, Cosenza), Rolando Aarons (Loan, Wycombe Wanderers)
The biggest departure for Newcastle United this summer was in the form of their head coach Rafa Benitez, who ended his 3-year affiliation with the North-East club, who stated that ‘they were unable to come to an agreement with Rafa and his representatives.’
Benitez wanted more control over transfers and further investment in the clubs academy, something which owner Mike Ashley has been reluctant to give to his managers/head coaches, preferring to delegate to other employees of the club.
The fans, players and those in the media associated with Newcastle United all wanted Benítez to stay, he endeared himself to the community, giving Newcastle fans something to believe in again after a reign under Mike Ashley which has seen 2 relegations, their best players sold and a lack of ambition in the league and cup competitions. Ambition appeared to cease above ‘staying up.’ The squad was poor, and the relationship that Benítez had with the players and supporters and his tactical acumen made the team greater than the sum of its parts.
The Summer transfer window didn’t start well; the club were against signing leading goalscorer Salomón Rondón permanently, who then joined Benítez at Chinese club Dalian Yifang. Ayoze Pérez, their second-top goalscorer was sold to Leicester City, and Steve Bruce made the controversial move to St James’ Park.
The former Aston Villa, Birmingham City, Sheffield United, Sheffield Wednesday and Sunderland manager was joining the club he had supported as a boy and was always going to have a job on his hands to endear himself to the Newcastle supporters. Who, by some, is seen as a cheap and disloyal patsy for the Ashley regime.
A club-record fee was agreed for Brazillian forward Joelinton, who scored 11 goals in 34 appearances for TSG Hoffenheim. Allan Saint-Maximin was the other high profile signing from Nice. Both players appear to fit the Newcastle United model of signing players who they can hope to sell on to a bigger club for a profit.
Plenty of clubs do it, it’s not necessarily a bad model, but when you’re in the top 20 of the most valuable clubs in the world, why not show a little more ambition?
Newcastle United’s Recent Form
Steve Bruce and his side have picked up some credible results in recent weeks, Saturday's late equaliser against Manchester City had meant that they only lost one game in November. A 2-0 defeat away to Aston Villa, which saw them concede 17 shots and lose their influential defender and captain Jamal Lascelles.
They’ve have been prone to a scalp or two this year. They’ve beaten Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United, which I suppose might not be considered as scalps considering the state that both clubs (and in Manchester United’s case, still are) were in at the time.
Despite the result against Tottenham, they do struggle on the road, that and the win over West Ham are the only points they have picked up away from home this season.
In the past Newcastle have the accusation thrown to them that due to selling players a vision of ‘come here and do well and we’ll sell you on when we get a good offer.’ It’d certainly explain the spirited performances against the better sides and lacklustre ones against the lesser sides.
“I'm delighted that we are creating chances, we had to get a foothold in the division and we’re playing with a little bit more freedom now. The onus is on us now to stick those chances away.” - On chance creation and developing in the Premier League.
“The quality that we will face Thursday night is not to be underestimated. They have players with Premier League experience, international experience, a passionate crowd home and away. We’re in good nick and we’re looking for a big performance.” - On Newcastle United
“The energy and the drive the team have, which obviously comes from the top, is no surprise. It’s no surprise that they’re making a fist of it in the Premier League. They’re a very, very decent side with good players.” - On Sheffield United
“It’s vitally important when you don’t play as well as you’d like to that you can get that response. We’re doing OK at the minute but the league is so tight. The difference between fifth bottom and fifth top is tiny.” - On Form
Opposition Style of Play
In Steve Bruce’s last two jobs (Sheffield Wednesday and Aston Villa), he has appeared to favour a 4-2-3-1 formation, while also deploying a 4-4-2 at Sheffield Wednesday.
Bruce has only used the favoured 4-2-3-1 once during his time at Newcastle, away at Leicester and they lost 5-0. A couple of days before that fixture, he spoke of how he wanted to transform the way that Newcastle United wanted to play.
Bruce said, “last season Newcastle were second bottom of the Premier League in respect of keeping possession, and if we’re to improve, it’s something we have to get better at – we have to keep the ball better.”
At the time of writing, Newcastle United are ranked 20th in terms of possession.
Before and after the defeat to Leicester, they’ve played the 5-4-1 formation which was used by Rafa Benítez to provide defensive stability to a limited team with the threats coming from wide players with pace, with a centre forward being the focal point.
So either Bruce doesn’t believe he has the players to play a different style of football (and when Mike Ashley is involved, probably won’t get them), sees this season as a season of consolidation and transition or he doesn’t have the belief of his own convictions to coach these players to play his way whilst juggling a Premier League campaign, where he’s likely to have plenty of time in between games given Newcastle aren’t in European competition and their record in domestic cup competitions.
Miguel Almirón and Allan Saint-Maximin provide pace on the counter-attack, but Newcastle haven’t scored directly from a counter-attack this season. They’ve scored 13 goals so far (the 19th lowest in the league), with 8 coming from open play and five from set-pieces. It's difficult to see what they're good at.
2-0, with McGoldrick ending his drought.
David McGoldrick to Score Anytime at 9/5 (Skybet); A Referee’s Decision to be Overturned using VAR at 7/4 (SkyBet)
Difficult to say isn’t it? Wilder has spoken about making changes for either this game or the Norwich fixture on Sunday. Same team as Wolves for now, maybe?