Newcastle in Trouble

Newcastle United only ever seem to be one or two games away from a crisis and this season is certainly no different in the eyes of their long suffering supporters.

A lack of investment and disillusionment combines to make the North East outfit struggling once more in the Premier League and there appears to be very little chance of returning the club to challenging for honours until there is a significant investment at St James Park.

The value placed on the club by owner Mike Ashley has not been met despite interest in the past, negotiations either becoming protracted or called off and the club no further forward. That translates down to the football pitch where results are not improving but without investment there is little boss Steve Bruce can do.

As a Geordie himself Bruce is desperate to succeed and bring some glory to his hometown team, constantly battling against those with bigger budgets and better players to no avail.

Ashley’s refusal to back his manager with a large war chest for players is nothing new, Rafa Benítez suffering the same issues in the past and this had led to the slow decline of the club to one of surviving in the Premier League rather than competing for trophies.

Should Utd fail once again it’s hard to see Ashley being able to bring in the likes of Benítez as a new manager to bring the team back up and with the on-going pandemic there is very little chance of the club ending in up the hands of wealthy backers.

On the pitch Bruce is struggling to get a tune out of the team, the lack of confidence evident everywhere and there is little scope to make enough changes to make a difference. The recent move to a 4-4-2 formation at Arsenal made no odds and a 3-0 defeat against a side who themselves blow hot and cold left Newcastle in in fifteenth place and seven points in front of the relegation zone. 

The loss though extended the Magpies winless run to nine games and with scoring goals a problem at the other end, Bruce has many issues to contend with. Whilst eight goals so far is a decent return for summer signing Callum Wilson, just once each for Dwight Gayle and Andy Carroll is likely the reason Bruce persists with one striker. 

Against Arsenal Bruce paired Wilson with Carroll for the first time starting together and there were small signs of it working, Carroll’s lack of match fitness telling before he was substituted. 

Jon Joe Shelvey is more often than not the lynchpin for the Magpies’ midfield but even he looked subdued at the Emirates on Monday evening, struggling to get a hold of the game, and imposing the Geordies game plan on their opponents.

With a weekend off with no FA Cup commitments, Bruce was blessed with the time to decide if he leans towards the back five favoured by the players or persists with his paired strike force knowing that will leave them more open and exposed.

Tough games await for the remainder of January, trips to top four chasing Aston Villa and Everton sandwich a home game with the expansive Leeds Utd team, points are needed from these games just to break that winless spell let alone move the club further away from the drop zone.

Whilst they have a sizeable gap to the bottom three those beneath them are picking up points steadily and should one or two teams pick up back to back wins then the Magpies are heading for trouble. 

There are unlikely to be signings made this month so Bruce will be left with the numbers he has now to get something moving, failure to do so might see the dreaded P45 arrive before things get much worse.

Follow Trevor on Twitter @trevk37