How do Eddie Howe's Newcastle compare to Steve Bruce's?

Steve Bruce left Newcastle when the club were winless and sat 19th in the Premier League table… Eddie Howe has restored optimism after their first win of the season against Burnley, but how do duo’s Magpies sides compare?

  • Newcastle earned their first Premier League win of the season last weekend 
  • The victory for Eddie Howe’s men restored some feel-good factor among fans
  • The supporters’ backing was something Steve Bruce was never able to rely on 
  • But how do their two Magpies sides compare? Sportsmail crunches the stats… 

Newcastle’s winless start to the Premier League season finally ended last weekend with Callum Wilson’s winner against Burnley.

His strike crashed high into the net to send St James’ Park wild and it restored hope in the North East that a great escape can still be pulled off this season.

Eddie Howe’s men still face an almighty challenge to avoid relegation, still sitting down in 19th place. 

Newcastle won their first Premier League game of the season last weekend against Burnley

Eddie Howe and his men restored some of the feel-good factor that had been missing at club

But following the wave of optimism brought on by the £305million Saudi-led takeover earlier in the season, the Burnley victory has restored belief among the Toon Army that things are changing for the better.

Fan support is something Howe’s predecessor Steve Bruce was never able to lean on, the former Sunderland boss facing an uphill struggle to win over the St James’ Park faithful from his first day in charge up until his final act – a 3-2 defeat by Tottenham in the first game following the takeover. 

Bruce left Newcastle after eight winless games at the start of the Premier League season and sat in 19th, as they are now.   

With that in mind, how do the Magpies compare in the final stages of Bruce’s managerial stint at St James’ Park to how they have started under former Bournemouth boss Howe, ahead of Sunday’s trip to out-of-form Leicester?

Sportsmail crunches the numbers to find out… 

Steve Bruce was never able to rely on fans’ support, but how to the duo’s sides compare?

Bruce’s Newcastle v Howe’s Newcastle

At face value, the statistics comparing Bruce’s final four games in charge for Newcastle, compared to Howe’s first four appear to show a minute improvement at best. 

Both sides mustered the same number of goals, while Bruce’s side even held a higher average possession, and also boasted a higher passing accuracy.

Their pressing even appears better, winning the ball more in the final third.

Defensively, there is a more tangible improvement with Howe’s appointment. Under Bruce, United conceded far more goals (7) than their expected goal tally (4.7), suggesting issues at the back. Howe’s team, on the other hand, have conceded fewer goals (6) than their xG tally suggests they should have (6.1). 

Howe originally opted to stick with the five at the back Bruce had used towards the end of his reign, but it largely backfired as they conceded three times at home to Brentford – with the match also proving Karl Darlow’s last appearance to date as Martin Dubravka returned.

Newcastle picked up just two points in Steve Bruce’s last four games as they fell down the table

Since returning to his favoured four at the back, Newcastle have looked a tad more convincing at the back, with genuine chances for both Norwich and Burnley limited – although Arsenal did find a way through twice at the Emirates.  

Taken out of context, these figures suggest it might have been a little harsh for Bruce to have been axed, but taking in the context surrounding those games changes that perception. 

Bruce’s final four games boasted four fairly inviting fixtures, two against relegation rivals in Leeds and Watford, as well as a visit to the Premier League’s second-lowest scorers and a home clash with a struggling Spurs side. 

In not one of these games did Newcatle look remotely convincing as they picked up just two points. 

They blew a lead against a struggling Watford side, before almost losing it at the end – only VAR rescuing them from a late Joshua King winner. 

Martin Dubravka kept Newcastle’s first cleansheet in the league this season against Burnley 

They were forced to fight from behind against a mediocre Leeds side, and once again failed to find the killer touch in front of goal as they were held 1-1 at home. 

They were then beaten by Wolves at Molineux, conceding twice to a side that has just 12 goals in 15 league matches to date. 

The final straw came as they capitulated against a struggling Spurs side at St James’ Park, the new regime on Tyneside being announced with a whimper.  

Howe, on the other hand, has seen his side deliver five points from his opening four fixtures. He was actually absent from the touchline for the first against Brentford, a 3-3 draw in which the Magpies had the majority of possession and played on the front foot. 

While the 2-0 defeat at Arsenal was all-too familiar, the 1-1 draw with Norwich was commendable given the length of time they were forced to play with 10 men following Ciaran Clark’s early sending off, before they finally secured their first win in that nervy encounter with Burnley.  

That win also secured their first cleansheet in the league and the early indication is that as the season wears on, the gap between the exploits of Bruce’s side and Howe’s will only widen. 

And that is before Howe is allowed the opportunity to improve his side with the club’s newfound riches in the January transfer window. 

How do Newcastle compare to Leicester? 

While a visit to Brendan Rodgers’ Leicester may be one that any Premier League club would typically want to avoid, that does not appear the case at the moment. 

The Foxes have hit a bit of a rut, winning just once in their last six top flight outings – a 4-2 win at the King Power Stadium against Watford in the midst of a blizzard. 

Aside from that, there have been comfortable defeats at the hands of Chelsea and Arsenal at home, a disappointing loss last time out at Aston Villa, as well as draws against Southampton and Leeds – two sides they would have fancied getting the better of. 

One worrying statistic for Rodgers will be his side’s xG return. While scoring seven goals in those fixtures, their expected return was only 4.3 and while on paper it is excellent to see his side over-delivering, it is not something that he can consider sustainable, despite having the skills and finishing abilities of the likes of Jamie Vardy and James Maddison at his disposal. 

Given that Howe appears to have gotten a handle on Newcastle’s tendency to gift goals, this may prove crucial. 

Brendan Rodgers has seen his Leicester side struggle over the past couple of months 

What is also notable is the speed at which the Foxes are conceding. They’ve conceded exactly two goals in each of their last three games, something that will have Callum Wilson licking his lips. 

They do tend to dominate possession, but that is not something to worry Newcastle, who are used to playing on the counter-attack, and have the pace in the form of Allan Saint-Maximin, Joe Willock and Miguel Almiron to trouble Leicester’s backline. 

In fact, the King Power has been a relatively happy hunting ground for the North East oufit since their return to the top flight in 2017. 

While there was a chastening 5-0 defeat in 2019, the Magpies have won on each of their other three visits, including a pulsating performance last year that saw them race into a four-goal lead before eventually prevailing 4-2. 

The pressure is certainly on Leicester, with their Europa League commitments perhaps beginning to take their toll. 

The Foxes have won just one of their last six league outings and are conceding at a high rate 

Moreover, Leicester have been badly affected by a Covid outbreak within their squad, which has already sidelined seven players for their crucial clash with Napoli on Thursday night. 

Ademola Lookman, Kelechi Iheanacho, Ayoze Perez, Daniel Amartey, Jannik Vestergaard, Filip Benkovic and Vontae Daley-Campbell were left in the UK and did not travel to Italy – although it is understood not all are Covid positive.

The club will continue to monitor their players and staff – three of whom were also left behind – ahead of Sunday’s league fixture. 

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