The Arsenal forward scored in the 58th minute of Sunday’s clash with the Magpies, which was enough to see them leave St James Park with a win and Daily Mail journalist Craig Hope suggested manager Steve Bruce needed to take some blame for the goal.
Hope highlighted how Willems was brought onto replace Jonjo Shelvey and took up the 27-year-old’s spot in midfield rather than move to left-wing back and tell teammate Matt Ritchie to go into midfield, and Hope pointed out this miscommunication led to the goal.
“Okay if that was the intention, but Willems was not supposed to come on in central midfield – that is the point,” wrote Hope on his verified Twitter account.
“The manager was furious, it was a mistake. It looked awful for two minutes as they tried to tell him otherwise. It affected the team. Fine margins.”
Durham responded to Hope suggesting the buck stopped with Bruce over Arsenal’s goal on Sunday, as he should have made sure Willems knew what he was doing, in order to slam Lascelles for his marking of Aubameyang and Willems for being to slow to realise the danger.
Though the talkSPORT broadcaster acknowledged that Bruce did deserve scrutiny for the mess-up regarding Willems being subbed on, but made clear it was hard to completely blame the goal on him.
It was a very risky pass, Willems too slow to realise danger, decision making from Lascelles questionable as Auba unmarked. I think it's correct to scrutinise Bruce, but harsh to say "buck stops with him" for goal when players made basic errors. Bruce can't expect any slack tho.
— talkSPORTDrive (@talkSPORTDrive) August 12, 2019
“It was a very risky pass, Willems too slow to realise danger, decision making from Lascelles questionable as Auba unmarked,” wrote Durham on his personal Twitter account.
“I think it’s correct to scrutinise Bruce but harsh to say “buck stops with him” for goal when players made basic errors. Bruce can’t expect any slack tho.”
Durham is spot-on. The talkSPORT broadcaster is not always on the money when weighing in on the situation at Newcastle, but he is right to defend Bruce here. While it’s true the Magpies manager may have made a mistake by not making clear to Willems what role he wanted him to play against Arsenal, it’s fair to say he and Lascelles could have done better. Willems is an experienced player and regardless of whether he was confused or not to be playing in midfield, though he did dabble there last season for Eintracht Frankfurt, he should be aware that he can’t let any Arsenal player be given enough space to let them do what they want. The 25-year-old ended his competitive Magpies debut on Sunday with an average rating of 6.20, and that’s flattering given his mistake was arguably his only memorable moment (Source: WhoScored). As for Lascelles, the defender wasn’t terrible on Sunday, but it’s clear he can do better. The centre-back didn’t win any of the tackles he attempted but did make two interceptions and five clearances (Source: Premier League). Lascelles is a capable defender, having played 84 times in England’s top-flight, and Bruce will be eager to see him up his game.