To Newcastle’s credit, and unfortunately for the haters – Steve Bruce’s men only conceded two goals more than Chelsea have in the Premier League this year, so they must be doing something right.
Of course, the key issue here is the transition into becoming something more than they are and adopting perhaps a style of play that makes best use of the squad they have. Are they currently doing it?
You can certainly argue that they’re not much better than 13th in the division on paper.
But, the problem they have is context. Looking around them, clubs, with all due respect, like Crystal Palace and Wolves are overachieving. They’re the types they focus on – and not the West Hams of the world who should be flying given the money invested in their squad.
That desire to be the overachievers for once will now be paraded in front of them as Sheffield United march into town; still in genuine contention for a top four spot.
Perhaps the dabble into crowdless football could suit Newcastle. I’m not sure about you, but having 50,000 Geordies scream into my face while I’m sat at my desk would turn me off my work somewhat.
This is now time for Newcastle to stick or twist, and if they believe they’re capable of better, they’ll give Steve Bruce every chance now in an environment he can’t blame.
This really feels like the time in Sheffield United’s season where they’ll drop points and falter in games they shouldn’t.
It’s also a time where I believe Newcastle encourage Steve Bruce to cut loose and see what he’s got for the remainder of the campaign. Being eight points clear of the bottom four with nine games to go and having four teams between you and the drop zone is comfortable, so now’s the time to look to next season.
With that in mind, I’d expect a more open game than you might have seen if these sides’ situations were different.
But one team here can afford to try something new, while the other is so romantically linked to one style of play due to their ongoing success that they just might be to dropping points.
It would be hilariously fitting for David McGoldrick to grab his first goal of the season here, and given the bizarre nature of this campaign, it seems fitting that he’d do so against a Newcastle back four who will struggle to neutralise his physical presence.
That, and given how many low-scoring games we’ve seen already, this does strike you as the one to break the mould, as both are especially quick with the ball to feet and don’t waste time getting it into the 18-yard-box.
I’m backing both of these to grab a goal, so the play is to take the over here for a bit of odds-against value.
I don’t need to explain this one. Surely?
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