Newcastle United have been one of the Premier League’s primary beneficiaries of the break in the season due to the Covid19 pandemic, with only Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal having accumulated more points since the division’s resumption than the Toon’s 11.
Steve Bruce has turned the Magpies’ poor fortunes around and has got this side playing the expansive attacking football fans have been craving all season long, scoring 11 in their last five matches. The Red Devils are the only other top-flight side yet to lose since football returned with Bruce guiding the Toon to three wins and two draws.
He believes his switch in Newcastle’s system has provided the key to success and commented on how it had given the squad a boost.
What did he say?
Speaking to the Chronicle, Bruce said: “The way we’ve played, some of the goals we’ve scored and the fact that players have enjoyed that bit of freedom this system enables them to have, rather than be the way they have for a couple of years now, we’ve had a lift.”
He continued by adding: “It has come together with Allan Saint-Maximin, Miguel Almiron and Jonjo Shelvey have that bit of freedom.”
Strutting their stuff
A critical factor in the transition from counterattack merchants to a front foot first style has been the influence of Miguel Almiron, who’s helped Newcastle average 52.5 per cent possession in their last four fixtures, well above their average for the season of 41.9 per cent.
The 26-year-old has been moved to a more central role, often operating in behind Dwight Gayle or Andy Carroll, allowing him more options in possession. As a reward for the switch, fans and the manager will have been delighted to see the typically goal-shy playmaker find the back of the net in consecutive matches against strugglers Bournemouth and West Ham.
Saint-Maximin has grabbed the plaudits having also increased his output by scoring once, as well as assisting three, but Shelvey’s string of fabulous displays cannot be overlooked. There are few other players for the Magpies who can boast such mesmerising vision and range of passing, and with more options to aim for the midfielder has been slicing through opponents at will.
Impressively for him, but not so much the forwards, Shelvey is still this sides’ top scorer withj six Premier League strikes, and one more goal would give him the best return of his top-flight career.