Newcastle United vs. Burnley: Rating Steve Bruce’s new tactics

Steve Bruce, Manager of Newcastle United. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Steve Bruce, Manager of Newcastle United. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images) /

Newcastle United changed things up a bit against Burnley and they performed well, but Steve Bruce’s side failed to score a goal once again…

Newcastle United needed to claim three points against Burnley after suffering back-to-back defeats in London over the last two weeks, but the Magpies only managed to take a point at St. James’ Park today. Earlier in the week, Steve Bruce hinted that he would alter his tactics in an attempt to help the team score more goals, and he kept his word.

Newcastle United have been playing with a back-five all season, but that changed today as Bruce decided to deploy a 4-4-2 formation. Overall, the Magpies achieved their objective of playing more attacking football, but they failed to get the ball into the back of the net.

Newcastle United started off slow until they found their rhythm in this new shape with two strikers up top, but they woke up and managed to create 10 chances in the first half, and finished the game with a total of 21 shots. In addition, the Toon broke their trend of sitting back and chasing the ball as they enjoyed an impressive 54% of possession.

Bruce’s decision to start Jonjo Shelvey and Isaac Hayden paid off as they provided more composure offensively and confrontational defending when trying to recover the ball. Playing Dwight Gayle up top with Joelinton was also a smart move. Gayle was the most active striker and he created a few dangerous chances that should boost his confidence going forward.

The only shocking decision was keeping Allan Saint-Maximin on the bench and only introducing him in the 78th minute. Saint-Maximin is the Magpies’ most dynamic player and he had an immediate impact as soon as he came on.

Tactical Rating: B+

The statistics don’t lie, Newcastle United outplayed Burnley and deserved to take three points in this game, but the lack of shots on target, four, is what kept them level at the end. This new formation enabled the Magpies to spread the ball around more in the middle of the park, and the presence of another striker helped the team apply more pressure and create more chances.

Some of you might argue, “how can you give Bruce’s new tactics a B+ when the team failed to score?” Well, he picked a formation that encouraged attacking football. Bruce can’t suit up and play to try and score; he has to hope the players he has at his disposal will get the job done in the final third. They failed to score today, but if they continue training with this shape and look back at the film from this game, the goals will surely come.

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Overall, Bruce should stick with this shape and hope that Gayle can find his form in front of goal with plenty of support around him. Bruce’s tactics would have received an A+ from me today, but his decision to keep Saint-Maximin on the bench was the wrong move. A team’s most dangerous attacking player must start every single game, especially at this stage in the season when the goal is to stay out of a relegation battle.