Steve Bruce is due to release Joe Willock from the start at Burnley on Sunday in a reshuffle of the Newcastle United squad which drew 1-1 with Tottenham Hotspur.
The Arsenal lender teamed up with Miguel Almiron to equalize in the 85th minute against north Londoners Jose Mourinho, after being sacked on the bench.
His goal sealed a vital point for the Toons in their fight for the survival of the Premier League, with Bruce’s men now three points from the drop zone and still with a match underway against 18th-placed Fulham.
Was Bruce wrong to put Willock against Spurs?
Yes, what was he thinking?
No, his decision worked
Willock had started each of his previous seven appearances for the Magpies since moving to St. James’ Park in February, but was one of six changes between the 3-0 loss and relegation rivals Brighton & Hove Albion.
Bruce has ruled that Willock will be one of several to fall off the bench against Spurs to give the 21-year-old a rest, despite losing Isaac Hayden for the remainder of the season to an injury to the knee and the international break to regain his physical form. .
“He’s young and he played six or seven on the rebound. I just thought with Sean [Longstaff starting], which has long been waiting for a chance. There were big calls, ”Bruce said, via quotes from The Shields Gazette.
“I’m sure there were a few raised eyebrows before, as usual. But that’s what I’m paid for, to make decisions.
“Luckily entering as a sub was the right choice as he got us as a result which was very nice.
Bruce’s decision to bring Willock in from the bench may have paid off with the £ 14.5million-valued midfielder – which Arsenal are ready to sell – scoring a vital equalizer, but the boss of Newcastle must look to bring him back into the starting lineup at Burnley.
Bruce was partly in the wrong tactic against Tottenham despite the result and United’s improved performance, having fielded Emil Krafth as a makeshift center-half only for the natural right-back to fight and never appear comfortable in the role.
Mourinho’s men have had great success attacking Krafth, who Bruce must mercilessly chop up for Sunday’s trip to Turf Moor after seeing Jacob Murphy thrive at the back instead of the Sweden international.
Bruce can get by without Krafth occupying one of three central defensive roles against Sean Dyche’s Clarets, so he would have to change Newcastle’s system to allow Willock to start while putting Almiron back in a more advanced role.
Willock can cover the pitch on the right side of Bruce’s midfield trio that Almiron has been charged against Tottenham, and free the Paraguayan to pull the strings directly behind Joelinton.
Bruce praised Willock on arriving at Tyneside for it, noting “he brings some energy” after the £ 20,000-a-week gem scored on his debut against Southampton.
The Toon boss must now release that energy from the start and be aggressive in his squad selection against a Burnley side who have drawn in their last five Premier League games at Turf Moor.
AND in other news, £ 40k / s Newcastle star faces a race against time to appear again this season…