This article is part of Football FanCast’s The Chalkboard series, which provides a tactical insight into teams, players, managers, potential signings and more…
Newcastle may have turned a corner with the performance and result against West Ham, and the front-three showed that when on top form they can be a handful for any opponent.
Steve Bruce has faced a tough challenge during his first three months in charge of the Magpies, in what was meant to be a dream job for the boyhood Newcastle fan.
From day one, some fans were against him, and though he was given money to spend he inherited a squad which scored just 42 goals in the league, yet lost 23 goals from that total with the departures of Ayoze Perez and Salomon Rondon.
Despite that, he has done well in parts, and proved that much of the criticism aimed his way has been unwarranted.
He has maintained faith in both his system and his players, and could be about to reap the rewards, starting with Newcastle’s fine display against the Hammers on Saturday, a game they very easily could have led 3-0 at half-time.
With the front three scoring just once between them in ten league games prior to the visit to the London Stadium, some managers would have decided to withdraw them from the team – but not Bruce.
The former Manchester United player has built much of his career on effective man-management. The combination of Miguel Almiron, Allan Saint-Maximin and Joelinton has showcased both that and his tactical skills, and Bruce was the reason why his team looked so accomplished in their 3-2 win.
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One of the reasons why Bruce has been somewhat under fire is because of the Magpies’ lack of goals, with six in ten scored before the trip to London.
However, with two summer arrivals starting in attack as well as one who only arrived in January, Bruce should have been afforded more time, as he is now starting to prove that once gelled together, his players are capable of producing winning football.
Alan Shearer noted as much on Match of the Day, as quoted by The Athletic:
“The concern this season for Newcastle has been a lack of creativity and a lack of link-up play between Saint-Maximin, Almiron and Joelinton. But not (against West Ham).”
Bruce knows the limitations of his squad, and should be praised rather than ridiculed for operating with a system which best suits them.
Players like Jetro Willems and Saint-Maximin are beginning to excel under him, whilst his handling of Matty Longstaff and Jonjo Shelvey has also resulted in match-winning moments against Man United and West Ham respectively.
Newcastle may not be a team which dominates the ball, but they have pacy wingers and a target man in Joelinton who, with a bit of confidence, will be able to seek out their runs, and that is now beginning to work well for the Magpies.