This article is part of Football FanCast’s Pundit View series, which provides opinion and analysis on recent quotes from journalists, pundits, players and managers…
Newcastle were soundly beaten by Norwich on Saturday afternoon, and Yoshinori Muto’s verdict on the game may just be the clearest indicator yet that Steve Bruce is out of his depth.
We’ve heard it all about Bruce at this point. Some fans think he isn’t good enough, some fans think he deserves a chance, some are just fed up and others don’t care as long as Mike Ashley is in charge.
The people who really know the gaffer’s tendencies however, the players, had kept quiet, until now.
After Paul Dummett said the Magpies’ warm-up before the clash with the Canaries “wasn’t right”, Muto has now opened up about how it feels to be a striker in Bruce’s system.
“It was really hard. I felt isolated and I was always surrounded by three or four opponents,” said the Japan international of Saturday’s defeat.
“As a forward that was very tough. As a team we struggled overall.
“When I was watching in the first half I was expecting it to be difficult when I came on because Joelinton was struggling as well.”
In 66 mintues on the pitch, Joelinton touched the ball just 35 times. In his 24-minute cameo, Muto managed just nine touches, per Whoscored.
Alan Shearer criticised the disconnect between Joelinton and Miguel Almiron on Match of the Day, pointing to the fact that the Brazilian had “no-one within 40 to 50 yards of him”.
The duo were quiet against Arsenal as well, and quite simply, Bruce’s 3-5-2, which is more of a 5-3-2 given the measly 37% possession they had at Carrow Road, isn’t working.
Of his midfield options, none of Jonjo Shelvey, Isaac Hayden, Ki Sung-yeung or Sean Longstaff are particularly attack-minded or creative. When playing five defenders and three midfielders, at least one or two of them need to have the ability to get close to the strikers and provide goals and assists. Bruce just doesn’t have this option.
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The former Sheffield Wednesday boss has been criticised in the past for his out-dated ideas, and Muto’s admission that even the players feel their tactics are failing is quite shocking. Not only that, the 27 year-old says he could see the issue in the first half, yet the manager did absolutely nothing to fix the problem.
It may the clearest indicator yet that Bruce is out of his depth, and the gaffer has a big job on his hands to bring the dressing room around to his system. If he can’t, the implosion many expect will come on Tyneside this season may happen sooner rather than later.