Ryan Fraser is a man walking a thin tightrope at Newcastle United after Steve Bruce unleashed a scathing attack on his players for their torrid recent form.
Bruce has refused to hold back any punches after the Magpies were disappointingly beaten 1-0 by Sheffield United on Tuesday night, stating “the gloves are off” after becoming the first side to lose a Premier League game to Chris Wilder’s Blades this season.
“We were absolutely frigging hopeless the other night,” Bruce said, via quotes by The Guardian. “Unfortunately, that’s happened a little too often in my 18-months here; it was nowhere near good enough for the challenge ahead. Maybe it’s a mentality thing.”
One player for whom Bruce’s comments should hit home hard is Fraser, who saw two yellow cards in the space of just three minutes shortly before half-time at Bramall Lane, having carelessly attracted referee Andy Madley’s attention for a shin-high challenge on David McGoldrick.
Fraser had hardly done anything of worth in South Yorkshire to be even slightly forgiven for his clueless actions, as an in-swinging cross to the near post in the 39th-minute that found Isaac Hayden proved to be the former AFC Bournemouth man’s only redeeming moment.
Moments after Hayden’s header failed to break the deadlock, Fraser was in the books for a late foul on John Fleck and play had hardly moved on before the red card was out and the 26-year-old’s time on the pitch was over to warrant WhoScored’s lowest match rating for a player on either side at 4.9.
Bruce rarely saw the Scotland international get on the ball before his sending off, with Fraser offering just eight accurate passes, including a corner kick, as he took a mere 17 touches and offered no dribbles.
Fraser’s performances up until the Sheffield United defeat had hardly seen the diminutive forward write his name in Bruce’s good books, either, having only started two of his seven Premier League appearances and offering two assists after suffering with hamstring and groin injuries.
For their efforts per game in the top-flight this term, Fraser ranks 16th at St. James’ Park for shots with a mere 0.3 strikes, per WhoScored. His record is less than what centre-backs Ciaran Clark (0.6) and Jamaal Lascelles (0.4) have offered and far fewer than Andy Carroll (1), who scored his first Premier League goal in 43 games against Leicester City earlier this month.
Fraser has also offered fewer key passes per league game (0.5) than six of his Toon teammates, with Jacob Murphy, Joelinton, Emil Krafth and Matty Longstaff all offering the same level of creativity as the £11m-rated forward who finished second only to Eden Hazard for assists in the 2018/19 campaign with 14 to the Belgian’s 15.
Bruce will no doubt be demanding far more from Fraser once his suspension is served, and hope to see the £42,000-per-week maestro take on board his criticism as the Toon chiefs comments have dealt the winger certain peril over his position in the side if things do not pick up soon.