Bruce tactics to bench Newcastle ‘fighter’ leave pundit bemused

Ian Wright has questioned Steve Bruce’s muddled selection policy in their 3-0 Premier League defeat to Arsenal on Monday night.

The Magpies held their own until the break before the floodgates opened. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang bagged a brace, with Bukayo Sako’s 60th-minute strike sandwiched in between.

It was the Tynesiders’ third straight league defeat and fifth in seven outings. They have not won a top-flight match since beating West Brom 2-1 on December 12.

Early-season optimism has been replaced by doom and gloom at St James’ Park. A number of pundits have questioned the players’ attitude and Bruce’s motivational skills.

However, Arsenal legend Wright has taken aim at his tactics rather than his ability to inspire. Matt Ritchie returned to action on November after a shoulder injury.

He had started four of their last five league games prior to Monday’s trip to Arsenal. The 31-year-old played a minor role late on in last week’s 1-0 to Sheffield United. And Wright was at a loss to explain his absence from the starting line-up

“I cannot understand why Matt Ritchie doesn’t play down that left-hand side,” he told Premier League Productions. “He will work hard and get the ball in with some quality. He has the fight and endeavour that they need and I’m looking at Newcastle and I just can’t see it – I can’t see where it is going to come from.”

Promises not enough

Bruce was far from a universal choice to take over from Rafa Benitez. His local roots gave him some leeway but a less-than-inspiring managerial CV spoke of problems to come.

Those have now surfaced and the writing will be on the wall unless there is an upturn in results. Newcastle are still seven points above the relegation zone but that gap could soon be bridged.

Ian Wright

West Brom are 19th but have Sam Allardyce in charge – a man who knows how to get clubs out of danger. Bruce pledged to keep fighting after Monday’s lacklustre display at the Emirates.

He told the BBC after the match: “The only way it comes back is with a couple of victories. We just have to keep working at it.”

It remains to be seen how patient the club is with the manager. If fans had been allowed in the stadium, it seems likely they would have turned on him by now.

His next task will be to try and stop the bleeding when he takes his men to Villa Park on Saturday.


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