It’s been a challenging first couple of months at Newcastle for head coach Steve Bruce, who left Sheffield Wednesday to take over at St James’ Park back in July, but he is confident of an upturn in fortunes for his side ahead of their Renault Super Sunday trip to Leicester, live on Sky Sports.
Appointed following the departure of Rafael Benitez, who was idolised by the Newcastle fans, and amid protests over the ownership of Mike Ashley, Bruce has faced difficulties on and off the field during his short tenure at St James’ Park.
On the pitch, Bruce’s side, who have faced Arsenal, Tottenham and Liverpool already, are the joint-lowest scorers in the Premier League and sit just outside the relegation zone with just one win to their name from their opening six matches. The Newcastle boss has faced fierce criticism of his playing style from fans, former players and pundits, while the attendance at St James’ Park has dropped to its lowest in nine years.
Leicester vs Newcastle
September 29, 2019, 4:00pm
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But despite the difficulties faced since his arrival, Bruce, who was given the job despite discontent from many Newcastle supporters, remains positive and in an exclusive interview with Sky Sports, the 58-year-old has identified the key areas needed for improvement for his side.
Speaking on a range of topics, Bruce, who is yet to lead Newcastle to victory at St James’ Park since his appointment, defends his side’s playing style, defends Miguel Almiron, talks Fabian Schar’s best position and hints at a potential strike partnership of Andy Carroll and Joelinton.
Possession the key
Giving up possession to the opposition is not a new thing for Newcastle.
Last season, only relegated Cardiff (39.1 per cent) had less possession on average than Newcastle (42.9 per cent) under Rafael Benitez. That trend has continued under Bruce with Newcastle, who had just 28.7 per cent of the ball against Brighton, recording the lowest amount of average possession in the Premier League (31.2 per cent).
It’s an area Bruce and his side are working to improve on.
“It’s very difficult, you cannot just turn around a style overnight,” Bruce told Sky Sports. “But we were better when we made the changes against Brighton and that’s obviously a positive.
“The biggest thing though, and we struggled with it last year as well, is possession.
“We were right near the bottom of the league last year in terms of possession so that must improve. We need to look after the ball a bit better and if we can do that it will help us.
“It’s something we need to work on hard on the training field,” he added.
“We turned the ball over a lot against Brighton. It was difficult enough trying to get it but when we did, we turned it over too quickly. We have to look after the ball better in order get ourselves a foothold in the game, and that’s what we’ll be trying to improve on.”