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Bruce’s ‘wheels are falling off’ & fearsome right-flank potency – The view from Newcastle

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Liverpool are in need of a response against Newcastle on Wednesday night and Magpies supporters aren’t in confident spirits with kickoff looming.

The Reds were hugely disappointing in their 1-1 draw at home to West Brom on Sunday, blowing the chance to go five points clear at the top of the Premier League.

Up next is a trip to Newcastle in midweek, with Steve Bruce guiding his side to 13th place currently, with daylight between themselves and the main relegation candidates.

Bruce finds himself under pressure, however, and another defeat on Wednesday would be another step in the wrong direction, even if it is against the champions.

Ahead of the match, we spoke to Newcastle fan and writer Dave Black (@cm9798) to get his opinion on Liverpool’s title chances and how Wednesday’s game could play out.

 

How would you assess Newcastle’s start to the season?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Tuesday, January 21, 2020: Joelinton Cássio Apolinário de Lira during the FA Premier League match between Everton FC and Newcastle United FC at Goodison Park. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

If you were being generous you could call it a mixed bag, but the wheels are definitely falling off and the mood around the fanbase is about as low as it has been since the final days of Steve McClaren.

Early optimism that the new signings – particularly Callum Wilson – would be able to mask the shortcomings in the dugout was soon dispelled by the woeful home defeat to Brighton.

From then on, it was clear that teams who can pass and move rather than rely on brute force would be able to have their way with us.

Performances have generally been poor and wins have been down to luck rather than judgment.

There is a degree of sympathy in that COVID-19 ravaged the squad after the Crystal Palace win at the end of November – it has cost us the services of captain Jamaal Lascelles and arguably our most creative outlet in Allan Saint-Maximin – but the truth is that neither have been at their best this season anyway.

 

Is Steve Bruce the man to take the Magpies forward?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, September 14, 2019: Newcastle United's manager Steve Bruce during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Newcastle United FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Definitely not.

Steve Bruce is hopelessly past his sell-by date as a top-flight manager and the pressure is beginning to show, and his soundbites are getting more confusing by the week and are often contradictory.

To go from Rafa Benitez to this is tragic really.

The football under Benitez wasn’t exactly champagne, but you knew there was a plan and we would get there in the end with mostly Championship players.

We have gone backwards under Bruce. His tactics seem to include letting the opposition have the ball and just hope we get something on the break.

We were very lucky in a lot of games last season, and when that isn’t there it exposes how awful we actually are.

There’s nothing more important than being 17th to the current owner – so as long as that continues Bruce will be in the dugout.

There are no extra points for style, but we are borderline unwatchable and one of the worst sides in possession in the division.

Bruce has had more money than Rafa and the media won’t criticise their mate. It’s tiresome.

 

How is the ownership situation now? Is Mike Ashley still a loathed figure?

NEWCASTLE-UPON-TYNE, ENGLAND - Saturday, November 1, 2014: Newcastle United's owner Mike Ashley celebrates after his side beat a lacklustre Liverpool 1-0 during the Premier League match at St. James' Park. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Mike Ashley is the fundamental problem but is getting a free pass at the moment as he is supposedly taking legal action against the Premier League to try and get our sale to the PIF of Saudi Arabia approved.

In footballing terms, the club need new owners desperately, but it shouldn’t be forgotten how far back he has taken us in 13 years.

It would be interesting to see how things would be if fans were allowed in stadiums – the fanbase have an axe to grind with the Premier League, the owner and the manager.

 

Who have been Newcastle’s three best players so far in 2020/21?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Boxing Day, Wednesday, December 26, 2018: Liverpool's Virgil van Dijk is held by Newcastle United's captain Jamaal Lascelles (L) and Federico Fernández during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Newcastle United FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Callum Wilson has been a shrewd signing and twice the player Joelinton is for half the price.

Without his goals, I dread to think where we would be but you can already feel him getting frustrated at the lack of service in recent games.

Karl Darlow has been given his chance in goal due to Martin Dubravka’s injury and he has been brilliant – but overworked.

His previous stints in goal at Premier League level have been underwhelming, but he has excelled this time around to the point where there’s a real decision to be made about who will be first choice when Dubravka returns.

It says a lot though that our goalkeeper is one of our top performers.

Federico Fernandez has been Mr Reliable and had featured in every game since the restart in June until he was struck down by the virus.

He rarely makes mistakes.

 

Do you still see Liverpool as the team to beat in the title race?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, December 27, 2020: Liverpool's Sadio Mané celebrates after scoring the first goal during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and West Bromwich Albion FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Definitely.

The slip up against West Brom aside, Liverpool have been outstanding since the Virgil van Dijk injury and I’m sure you will brush us aside with consummate ease.

Most of your substitutes’ bench would be regulars for us, although you are admittedly looking light at the back due to injuries.

 

Looking ahead to Wednesday’s game, who do you fear most from the champions?

LONDON, ENGLAND - Saturday, December 19, 2020: Liverpool's captain Jordan Henderson (R) celebrates with team-mate Trent Alexander-Arnold after scoring the fourth goal during the FA Premier League match between Crystal Palace FC and Liverpool FC at Selhurst Park. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Take your pick!

The front three speak for themselves, but we have been particularly weak down our left where young Jamal Lewis has had a rough start to his career on Tyneside.

With that in mind, the Trent Alexander-Arnold/Jordan Henderson/Mohamed Salah axis down the right is a big worry to me.

 

Where do you think the key battles will take place at St James’ Park?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, December 16, 2020: Liverpool's Fabio Henrique Tavares 'Fabinho' celebrates at the final whistle during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Tottenham Hotspur FC at Anfield. Liverpool won 2-1. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The big question is: will we manage more than 30 percent possession?

I think West Brom showed the way to nullify Liverpool, but we don’t have the central midfield to execute that sort of game plan.

I guess Wilson against whoever you cobble together at centre-back is an avenue we might be able to exploit, but I suspect we will set up for damage limitation (and fail).

 

Finally, hit us with your prediction…

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, December 16, 2020: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp celebrates at the final whistle during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Tottenham Hotspur FC at Anfield. Liverpool won 2-1. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

I think Liverpool will win – let’s go for 3-0 to the Reds.

With a full stadium we used to worry the top teams, but in the current climate we can barely lay a glove on them.

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