The honeymoon period quickly ended for Steve Bruce at Newcastle United as his new side laboured to a 1-0 defeat in their Premier League opener against Arsenal on Sunday.
Newcastle did start brightly against the Gunners and managed to disrupt their rhythm on the ball and cause slight problems through both Joelinton and Miguel Almiron.
Their best chance in the first-half fell to Joelinton, who did well to evade a couple of tackles on the edge of the box to find space but could only fire it straight into Bernd Leno’s grasps.
It all went downhill in the second half though, and Arsenal took the lead through Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang after Jetro Willems missed a tackle down the left-hand side and then Jamaal Lascelles left the Golden Boot winner in acres of space to fire in the winner.
The only bright spark after conceding for Bruce was the effect of new signing Allan Saint-Maximin, who came off the bench and managed to make a real impact running at the Arsenal defence.
NothingButNewcastle has put together three things learned about Newcastle after Sunday’s clash with Arsenal:
LACK OF DEPTH REVEALS NO PLAN B
Bruce surprisingly named four defenders on the bench in his Newcastle side, and only named two attackers in his starting line-up, leaving a lot of pressure on Joelinton and Miguel Almiron to create something from nothing.
Saint-Maximin came off the bench and admittedly made a great impact, but once the Frenchman breaks into the starting 11, Newcastle could be left scratching their heads looking for good enough options to come on late in games.
Their apparent lack of depth also highlighted how the Magpies seemingly had no plan B in the game – as most of Newcastle’s attackers just seemed to drift around the pitch and say goodbye to any sort of attacking structure.
Bruce will need to find new options and cement his playing style quick, or it could lead to many disappointments in the future, as Newcastle looked short of ideas when chasing the game.
STRUGGLING WILLEMS MUST GET BETTER
The excitement of a new signing being substituted on to the pitch is a feeling that never goes away. With Jetro Willems though, that apparent joy quickly faded as the Dutchman never seemed to settle into Bruce’s plans.
Willems came on for Jonjo Shelvey and picked up a midfield role before Bruce demanded he moved to his more usual left-back position. It was the 25-year-old’s fault for the Arsenal winner, missing a tackle which left the Gunners break into the left-back area which had been left vacant.
The full-back admittedly missed most of last season through injury, and he must try and cement his role in defence before trying to prove himself as a holding midfielder – a role that he must never feature in again.
Defensively, he only averaged 0.9 tackles and 0.2 blocks per game last season according to WhoScored, two areas of his game he must improve on if he is to prove himself above Matt Ritchie.
GOALS WILL COME TO JOELINTON
Strikers are always judged on the number of goals they deliver to their side, and Joelinton will not be judged any differently in Newcastle. The Brazilian made his debut in the clash with Unai Emery’s and caused problems all afternoon at St James’ Park.
The Brazilian was very isolated in the Magpies’ set up and struggled to get consistent touches of the ball as the away side dominated possession in the swirling rain. When Joelinton did get the ball, he looked very dangerous and caused problems.
Should he keep that form up, the goals will start to flow quite easily as his pace and power was clear to see all afternoon as he led the line with Almiron. He carried pushing all afternoon and missed two chances, but Bruce would be more worried if he didn’t create many chances at all.
On a different afternoon, his shot from the edge of box flies into the bottom corner and his flashing header in the first half could have easily have found the net – give it time and Joelinton will certainly deliver based on Sunday’s performance.