Match of the Day pundits Danny Murphy and Ian Wright disagreed on how they felt Newcastle United have started the season and the club’s style of play under Steve Bruce.
Yesterday’s 2-1 defeat to Wolverhampton Wanderers at Molineux meant the Magpies remain winless from the opening seven Premier League games of the season.
The loss to Bruno Lage’s side meant that Newcastle went into the October international break in the dreaded relegation zone and alongside Norwich City had the unenviable record of conceding the most goals in the top-flight (16).
However, Newcastle’s poor start to the campaign isn’t unknown territory for the club.
In fact, it’s the fourth time in the last seven Premier League campaigns that we have started without a win in the opening seven fixtures.
Pundits disagree on Bruce approach
Bruce has opted for a more daring cavalier approach to Newcastle’s matches which hasn’t brought any rewards as of yet.
Speaking on last night’s Match of the Day, Arsenal legend Wright said: “You look at Newcastle, I don’t know where their next win is coming from. He (Bruce) hasn’t changed it from Watford.
“He is playing Allan Saint-Maximin down the centre, they just look like they haven’t got the cohesion, I don’t know what’s going on there.”
However, Murphy disagreed with Wright.
The former Liverpool and Tottenham midfielder didn’t feel it “was all that bad” at Newcastle currently, adding that manager Bruce is trying to be more adventurous in his approach.
Murphy said: “I know they haven’t won but they have scored more goals than any other team in the bottom half this season. The balance isn’t right.”
A graphic shown on Match of the Day highlighted Newcastle’s struggles in defence this season compared to their attacking output.
Newcastle have had 93 shots, 27 which were on target which had an expected goals for return of 8.52 and they have scored eight goals this season. Bruce’s side sit in the Premier League’s top ten for all of those attacking statistics.
However, from a defensive point of view, Newcastle have faced 115 shots, 40 of which have been on target, which had an expected goals against return of 13.65 and they have conceded 16 goals.
In stark contrast to the club’s attacking statistics, Bruce’s team sit 19th and 20th in the Premier League charts when it comes to the defending categories.
Murphy added: “Last season, I think this probably would have been the other way around. Hard to beat but not able to score many goals.
“Steve Bruce has definitely tried to play more on the front foot at the beginning of this season, but they are suffering for it defensively because of it and that’s football, finding that balance between being entertaining, looking like a team having a go but leaving yourself wide open.”
Gary Lineker felt it was Steve Bruce’s job to find the “right balance” in the side.
It does seem that Bruce is torn between making his side hard to beat or playing in such an open way, that we are punished by quality teams and players.
Something has to change because if the current approach continues, judging by the open seven games of the season, our survival prospects look quite slim.