Saturday 17 August 2019

Unpopular Bruce already feeling the heat from Magpies fans

Newcastle United 0 Arsenal 1

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang of Arsenal celebrates after scoring his team's first goal. Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang of Arsenal celebrates after scoring his team's first goal. Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Luke Edwards

Steve Bruce was already an unpopular choice at Newcastle United and this only strengthened the hand of those who refuse to give him a chance. He is a manager required to provide instantaneous proof he can fill the void left by Rafael Benitez's toxic departure, but failed to offer any in this defeat.

Arsenal's win was simple, as soon as they took the lead through the imperious Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, they did not look like losing it.

Matteo Guendouzi fouls Miguel Almiron of Newcastle. Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images
Matteo Guendouzi fouls Miguel Almiron of Newcastle. Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Newcastle were a blunt attacking force. It was confused and uninspiring in the second-half, a performance as miserable as the weather. As starts go, this was not disastrous when looked at through reasonable eyes, a single-goal loss to a Big Six team, but these are volatile times on Tyneside. Bruce cannot afford many more afternoons like this.

They used to sing the name of the man he replaced at every game because Benitez's presence alone was a cause for celebration. It is the problem that is not going to go away.

Bruce is not Benitez, for some he will never be good enough and this defeat is already hardening views.

Those who have pre-ordained that Bruce is tactically impotent nodded in grim agreement at the sight of substitute Jetro Willems playing in the centre of midfield when he was supposed to be on the left wing. Some even rubbed their hands in glee, the breakdown in communication with a player who signed two weeks ago from Eintracht Frankfurt, confirming they had been right all along about Bruce's failings.

Arsenal's Gabonese striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (L) vies with Newcastle United's English defender Jamaal Lascelles (R). Photo: Getty Images
Arsenal's Gabonese striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (L) vies with Newcastle United's English defender Jamaal Lascelles (R). Photo: Getty Images

Forget about the result, after all, Arsenal beat Newcastle twice last season with Benitez in charge, this was the moment that exposed a manager they never wanted..

"It was just a lack of communication with him [Willems]," said Bruce. "I wanted to put Matt Ritchie inside and play him in his position. He only played there [in midfield] for two minutes, really, until we got the information down about where we wanted him to play. That was quickly sorted out, not a problem.

"Formation? We've played it and it's something that I think suited us. I understand there's always going to be criticism here, that's part and parcel of it, but I think it would be wrong to criticise because we had a go in the last 15 minutes, left ourselves a little bit stretched. When you're chasing a game it's always difficult.

"There was nothing really in the game. We had the better chances in the first-half but didn't really create anything in the second."

For those 6,000 who stayed away, the boycott designed to show the anger at the loss of Benitez and the continued presence of owner Mike Ashley, they will feel vindicated.

On the pitch Newcastle did at least compete in the first-half, their new £40 million striker Joelinton glancing a header wide after firing straight at Berno Leno. Jonjo Shelvey also hit the outside of the post.

Arsenal's best chances in the first-half fell to Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who blazed over, and Aubameyang, who was denied by the goalkeeper.

"Today we struggled but we deserved the win," said Arsenal manager Unai Emery. "I am happy." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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