Steve Bruce once admitted that he’s ‘not really into tactics’. But against Southampton, a tactical shift from the manager helped Newcastle into the top half.
The Magpies were a goal down when Andy Carroll came onto the pitch. He arrived with clear instructions, telling his teammates to get closer to him in anticipation of him winning headers and flicking the ball on.
That wasn’t the only change. Allan Saint-Maximin started the game on the left, but appeared to move alongside Carroll in the second half.
Newcastle haven’t played with a front two since the defeat to Norwich City, with Bruce’s early plans seeing him pair Miguel Almiron and Joelinton together. It didn’t work, and he changed to a front three in the following game against Tottenham, resulting in Newcastle’s first win of the season.
Since then, the formation has always been 5-4-1 or 3-4-3, depending on how you want to look at it. But there was a clear change against Southampton. And it worked.
With key winger Saint-Maximin now set for a spell on the sidelines, could Bruce revert back to his initial 3-5-2 shape?
Almiron has the pace to get in behind, and might do better playing alongside a proper target man like Carroll, similar to what ASM did against the Saints.
Sean Longstaff was introduced late on, joining Jonjo Shelvey and Isaac Hayden in the middle, just like he did on the opening day against Arsenal.
This system worked well in pre-season, but Bruce quickly gave up on it in the Premier League. Could we see it tested once more against Burnley?