As the final whistle blew on Saturday night to confirm a 1-1 draw between Newcastle and Wolves, it felt like a missed opportunity for the Magpies. The result was made even more frustrating for their supporters by the manner of Wolves' equaliser.
Following a substitution, it appeared that Newcastle's players were unsure about how the formation had been adjusted. This left Jacob Murphy out of position, allowing Wolves to break quickly and score through Ruben Neves.
Steve Bruce was particularly critical of left-back Jamal Lewis and goalkeeper Martin Dubravka for their parts in the goal. As reported by The Chronicle Live, he maintained that Lewis "should have stopped the cross" and said that Dubravka needed to reflect on whether he could have "done better."
Yet the main talking point after the game centred around Newcastle's miscommunication in the lead-up to the goal. According to The Athletic correspondent Chris Waugh, there were similarities between the Wolves goal and one conceded by Newcastle in Steve Bruce's first match in charge against Arsenal in 2019.
On that occasion, Jetro Willems had just come on for Jonjo Shelvey. Bruce seemed to want to make a tactical tweak but this was not communicated effectively to the players, with Willems initially playing in central midfield rather than left wing-back. This left Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in acres of space to score the winning goal.
As per The Athletic's real-time feed, Waugh said: "Have rewatched the confusion over the formation once Matt Ritchie was introduced vs Wolves & the optics are not good for Steve Bruce.
"Not only are there parallels with Jetro Willems vs Arsenal from August 2019, but how was there not clear communication inside an empty stadium?
"It took a good few minutes after that before #NUFC players really appeared to understand what was being asked of them."
GIVEMESPORT's Sam Brookes says...
Aubameyang's goal in Bruce's first game at St James' Park was disappointing but understandable. Mistakes can happen as players get used to a new manager.
However, the same thing should not be occurring 18 months down the line. Some could argue that Matt Ritchie should have got the message on quicker, or Shelvey should not have restarted play until the side were set up in their new formation. Ultimately, though, the buck stops with the manager.
This scenario typifies Bruce's spell at the helm. There appears to have been muddled thinking throughout his tenure, as he has switched between various formations without sticking to one consistently.
This has led to Newcastle struggling to string results together, causing them to slip down the table and into a relegation battle. If they continue to make basic errors like Saturday's, they could be heading back to the Championship in May.News Now - Sport News