Ki Sung-yueng was nowhere to be seen despite being fit and Willems’ introduction led to a couple of minutes of players not knowing where they were supposed to be playing.
Willems was running around in the centre of the midfield before eventually doing what Bruce wanted him to do by replacing Matt Ritchie as the left-sided wing-back, allowing Ritchie to move into the centre of the formation.
However not long after that happened, Willems was caught napping and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored Arsenal’s winning goal.
Ex-Newcastle forward Chopra took to social media on Monday afternoon to rant about the tactical decisions by Bruce that baffled him in the game.
“A left-back playing out of position at central midfielder, four defenders on the bench, no central midfielders on the bench, a manager screaming ‘what the f*** is happening?’. The circus continues at Newcastle,” Chopra said via his personal Twitter account.
Chopra was not the only one who was confused by what happened against Arsenal on Sunday. Bruce’s team selection was abysmal and he ended up taking bot Shelvey and Sean Longstaff off the pitch and replacing them with players who aren’t central midfielders. Willems played in the midfield for Frankfurt at times last season but he was clearly not supposed to play in that role, but Ritchie is not really someone who has featured there before. Maybe Willems’ decision to play in the middle was a better plan than Bruce’s decision to play him out on the left and Ritchie in the middle. We won’t now know but we do know that Bruce completely lost all kind of organisation in that moment of the second-half and it all started to go downhill for the Magpies from then on. Arsenal didn’t actually have a lot of chances to score but when they were handed one by some calamitous defending, one of the best strikers in the business made sure the Magpies paid. Bruce needs to drill his tactics into his players a lot more. Willems looked clueless but he cannot be blamed for that moment of madness after he came off the bench. The buck stops with Bruce.