This article is part of Football FanCast’s Opinion series, which provides analysis, insight and opinion on any issue within the beautiful game, from Paul Pogba’s haircuts to League Two relegation battles…
Steve Bruce has overseen just 13 matches as Newcastle manager but his tenure has already been somewhat of a rollercoaster ride.
He received backlash from fans before he even took over as manager, and in succeeding Rafa Benitez he was always going to have a tough task on his hands, However, he has built on the foundations set by the Spaniard and things are looking upwards for the club currently.
The Magpies boss has had to experiment with his team at times but has shown the bravery to make bold decisions, and that deserves recognition.
His squad is beginning to grow accustomed to what is expected of them and if he has furthered that over the course of this international break then he may extend Newcastle’s unbeaten run when they visit Aston Villa on Monday.
Despite the scrutiny Bruce has remained confident in the task set before him, and there are a number of things he has done well since taking over.
Here are three of them…
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In Bruce’s first games in charge against Arsenal and Norwich he attempted a slight move away from the style Benitez implemented, choosing to place his trust in Miguel Almiron to play alongside Joelinton.
The Paraguay international isn’t exactly the most clinical player in the attacking final third and despite the freedom to roam he was largely ineffective for his team, although that was due in part to Newcastle’s lack of possession – averaging just 38% all season long.
However, Bruce noticed his side’s weakness and adjusted as a result. He solved the need for width by bringing Allan Saint-Maximin into the side and now that the front-three understand each other’s games a little better, the Magpies are reaping the rewards.
The 5-2-3 system he operates with provides balance and makes Newcastle harder to beat, and he has begun to pick up some impressive results because of it.
Handling of players
This has been a key factor in recent wins, and underlines Bruce’s effective man-management style.
Jonjo Shelvey started the season in poor form and was subsequently dropped – a big call for a senior player. In his place Matty Longstaff was called up for the game against Manchester United, and despite it being his debut he duly delivered.
That shows the manager’s understanding of his squad, their personalities and what they are capable of. Whatever he said to Shelvey after that must have had an effect, as he responded with a stunning goal of his own on his return to the starting line-up against West Ham.
Saint-Maximin is another playing very well at the moment, but the improvement of Isaac Hayden is more pertinent, as under Benitez he was almost an outcast – starting just 21 league games last term.
While Joelinton is still yet to get up and running in order to live up to his £40m price tag, the captures of Saint-Maximin and Jetro Willems are proving to be inspired.
Fans are already calling for the latter to be signed on a permanent basis while the Frenchman leads the way in terms of chances created compared to the rest of the team.
He has also averaged the joint-second most successful dribbles per game in the Premier League with 3.6 , and once he notches his first goal he could become key for the side over the course of the season.