Newcastle have recently parted ways with their long-term manager Steve Bruce. Since the new owners took charge of the club, Bruce’s departure from the club was only a matter of time according to some experts. His last match as the manager of Newcastle, a 3-2 defeat by Tottenham, was also his 1000th match as a manager. Bruce leaves the Magpies after more than two years at the helm, finishing at 13th and 12th places in the previous seasons in the Premier League. Although this season has been a far cry from what Newcastle fans would have hoped for. The Magpies are currently placed just above the bottom of the league Norwich City in the relegation zone. They are also among the three sides still to register a win this season after the opening nine games.
Following Bruce’s departure, Newcastle asked Graeme Jones to take charge of the team for two games. In his recent press conference, Jones stated he is only interested in getting results and having high standards. Many fans believe that Newcastle should be higher up in the Premier League table than where they currently are, but the fact is that they have faced difficulty in churning out a string of decent results. Last weekend Jones took charge for one of the two matches that he has been afforded. Although he had limited time to prepare, Newcastle managed to hold on and secure a 1-1 draw away at Crystal Palace. After two defeats in a row, Newcastle came from behind and then stood firm for the last twenty-five minutes of the game. Callum Wilson’s brilliant overhead kick gave Newcastle the equalizer. The Magpies were able to contain Christian Benteke, who was relentless for Palace.
Let’s look at some stats from the previous two games in order to understand the difference in Newcastle’s performance under Bruce and the interim manager Jones.
Steve Bruce’s last match in charge was a 3-2 defeat at St. James’s Park. While they started the game in a dynamic manner, Newcastle’s tactical flaws became evident as the game went on. Their midfield was caught off guard time and again as they were pressed by Tottenham. Under Steve Bruce, Newcastle were criticized for their inability to hold shape and close down on spaces in the defence. They were unable to contain Tottenham’s forwards as Son, Ndombele, Moura and Kane were brilliant for Tottenham. Their dominance in the game is further indicated by their xG. Their xG of 1.18 surpassed that of the home side’s, 0.38. Newcastle also went down to ten men in the second half as Jonjo Shelvey picked up two yellow cards in his substitute appearance.
Newcastle’s passing zones indicate that they held on to the ball in their own half and on the left-wing. Despite delivering multiple successful crosses from the left-wing, the Magpies were unable to take advantage. This season Newcastle have faced difficulty in finding the back of the net.
Although Newcastle were on the back foot in Jones’ first game in charge, they managed to hold Crystal Palace to a draw at Selhurst Park. Jones changed the formation to the one that Bruce was using at the start of the campaign. Newcastle lined up in a back three formation and were robust in defence. Their performance indicated that they have tightened up their defence and were able to manage pressure. Their xG in this game also suggests slight improvement in their limited attacking opportunities.
Newcastle’s passing zones indicate that they held on to the ball in their own half. They sat deep for the majority of the match. They delivered multiple successful crosses into the opposition box but mirroring their game against Tottenham, were unable to take advantage. There is still a lot of work to be done in their offence if Newcastle are to move out of the relegation zone in their next few encounters.
At the end of the match against Crystal Palace, Jones was complimentary of his team, giving praise to their mentality and defensive shape. The mood around St. James’s Park has been uplifted slightly for now. Newcastle can use this draw against Crystal Palace as a base to bounce back. Although they will have to face a tough test in their next match as they welcome league leaders Chelsea.