This article is part of Football FanCast’s Opinion series, which provides analysis, insight and opinion on any issue within the beautiful game, from Paul Pogba’s haircuts to League Two relegation battles…
Steve Bruce has continued where Rafael Benitez left off and it is currently producing the desired results for Newcastle.
Since promotion from the Championship in 2017 the Magpies have mostly operated with a defensive approach, and under Benitez they were making steady progress because of it, finishing 13th last year despite scoring only 42 league goals.
The current Newcastle manager has admitted that he had a lot to contend with when he first arrived, and that could be the reason why he has opted for continuing with the system deployed under the Spaniard.
Benitez used a variety of formations during his spell in the north-east but towards the end began to consistently use 5-4-1, and Bruce is working his magic with the same set-up, with just a couple of personnel changes.
Bruce was criticised early on but the more his players are beginning to understand what they want from him, and his counter-attacking style, the better Newcastle are playing.
Bruce’s speciality in management isn’t usually his tactics, but his man-management and how he is able to get players performing to their best level.
His predecessor has been known for the opposite, applying the cold shoulder to his players at Real Madrid previously, and their comparative treatment of Isaac Hayden, who is now becoming key under Bruce, underlines the difference between the two.
With limited resources available it can be argued that Newcastle are in greater need of a manager like Bruce, as someone who can get even poor quality players performing well is something to be cherished.
The Magpies are perhaps more entertaining under the former Aston Villa boss, too, with the capture of Allan Saint-Maximin increasingly looking like an inspired move, as his 3.6 successful dribbles per game attest to.
Bruce has laid the groundwork in terms of organisation and defensive solidity, and now the quality of the squad is beginning to show with five goals in two games, while Fabian Schar also revealed his belief that the team is better this season.
With players such as Schar, Florian Lejeune and Sean Longstaff still to come back from injuries and suspension, things are beginning to look very positive for Newcastle, and if Bruce can continue to make the right selection choices and maintain the players’ confidence, he could prove his doubters wrong.