Steve Bruce clears up bizarre tactical misunderstanding with Jetro Willems during Newcastle’s defeat to Arsenal

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By Sean O’Brien

12th August 2019,
9:46 am

Newcastle boss Steve Bruce has explained the bizarre tactical mix-up which saw left-back Jetro Willems play in midfield during the 1-0 defeat to Arsenal on Sunday.

Willems, signed on loan from Eintracht Frankfurt during the summer window, came off the bench to replace the injured Jonjo Shelvey in the 54th minute.

Steve Bruce was incensed on the touchline following the mix-up

Getty Images – Getty

Steve Bruce was incensed on the touchline following the mix-up

Bruce was then left bewildered as the debutant wandered into central midfield and played there for two minutes.

Willems was eventually shifted to left-wing-back, with Matt Ritchie moving in-field, after the Magpies boss reportedly screamed, ‘What the f*** is happening?’

“It was just a lack of communication with him,” Bruce said after the game.


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“I wanted to put Matt Ritchie inside, and play him in his position. He only played there for two minutes, really, until we got the information down about where we wanted him to play.

“That was quickly sorted out, not a problem.”

It was a debut to forget for Willems, who was also held responsible by Bruce for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s winner in the 58th minute.

Ainsley Maitland-Niles intercepted a pass to Willems before picking out a cross for the unmarked Gabonese striker.

Aubameyang’s 58th-minute strike settled the contest

Getty Images – Getty

Aubameyang’s 58th-minute strike settled the contest

And Bruce admits the 25-year-old needs serious work on his positioning.

“I thought he (Willems) was too high up the pitch. I thought his position to start with was too high, and made the ball longer than what it should have been.

“If that’s a criticism, then it’s something we can work on.

“The big disappointment for us all is to lose it in the way we did. It was a mistake.”

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