Steve Bruce has put smiles back on faces at Newcastle, stringing a run of good results together after a poor start to the season. A win over Manchester United as well as a spirited draw with Manchester City are two highlights of his reign thus far after taking over the reins from Rafael Benitez in the summer.
Despite the positives, there are still problems for Bruce to solve at St. James’ Park before the Magpies head into 2020, hoping to ensure their Premier League survival. With that in mind, here are three of his biggest issues:
Get Joelinton firing
Since his big-money move from Hoffenheim, Joelinton has failed to deliver on his promise thus far. The Brazilian has just one goal and one assist from 16 appearances, 15 of which have been starts. His only goal came in the win over Tottenham back in August, but Bruce retains trust in his number nine, not yet giving that spot to the likes of Andy Carroll or Dwight Gayle. The Magpies need his output to improve, as only bottom-placed Watford and Crystal Palace have a poorer attacking record than Newcastle’s 17 goals in the league this season.
Right-back selection headache
Bruce has settled on a five-at-the-back system to get the best out of his defensive players (as shown on WhoScored), while utilising pace on the counter-attack by deploying Allan Saint-Maximin and Miguel Almiron.
On the right side of the back five, DeAndre Yedlin, Javier Manquillo and Emil Krafth have all had opportunities and have all made a similar number of appearances. One of those three making a statement and nailing down that spot could be key to their defensive stability heading into the new year.
As the fixtures pile up, Bruce is having to utilise all of his squad to cope with injuries. Captain Jamaal Lascelles is expected to be missing until the new year, while both Yedlin and forward Saint-Maximin have both suffered injuries of late. Centre-backs Fabian Schar and Florian Lejeune are just returning to the fold after lay-offs as well, so keeping them fit could be key to their progress in 2020. The injury to Saint-Maximin comes at a particularly frustrating time, just one game after he found the net for the first time in Newcastle colours.
Who should start for Newcastle, Joelinton or Andy Carroll?
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