Newcastle United head coach Steve Bruce isn’t exactly known for being a tactical genius, but he is someone who is relied upon to organise his teams and make them hard to beat.
However, he completely failed to do that in the Magpies’ dispiriting 2-0 defeat to Aston Villa on Monday night. His team were beaten all ends up by a Villa side who turned up red-hot and ready to go.
And Alan Hutton, who played under Bruce at Villa Park, believes the Newcastle bosses’ training methods failed to fire on Monday: “They just kind of flopped, to be honest, they didn’t come out the traps at all,” he told Football Insider. “Things like set pieces, these are things that he does daily, drills it into his players, do not concede from free-kicks, from set pieces and they’ve been hurt.”
Bruce will surely be feeling red-faced at what the BBC pundit has said, there. Hutton’s revealed that set piece are something he works on every single day, yet it certainly didn’t look like it against Villa.
Not only did the Magpies fail to capitalise on any of their own corners or free kicks, as they had against West Ham United and Bournemouth previously, they were undone by a Villa set play themselves.
Conor Hourihane gave the Villans the lead in the first half with a cleverly worked free kick, where the ball was touched and left for him to rifle past Martin Dubravka and into the Newcastle net.
Perhaps that suggests that Bruce spends too much time on trying to score from set pieces and not enough hours on trying to defend opposition ones.
This Newcastle team aren’t talented enough to get lackadaisical with the fundamentals, and that’s what happened on Monday. This was bread-and-butter stuff for Bruce, as Hutton has revealed, but they very much ‘flopped’ at Villa Park.