Steve Bruce claims it would be an “insult” to his players to suggest Newcastle are lucky to have gained the points they have to date in this season’s Premier League.
The Magpies sat in 10th place in the table after Saturday’s 0-0 draw with bottom-of-the table Norwich, slipping to 12th – but still seven points clear of the relegation zone on 31 – after Sunday’s stalemate between Burnley and Arsenal.
Bruce’s men were fortunate to emerge with something to show for their efforts after a woeful display against the Canaries, who passed up a series of chances to win the game, and they had to rely upon late, late goals to take four points from a possible six against Everton and Chelsea in their previous two league outings.
But asked if they had been lucky, the defiant 59-year-old said: “In the last couple of weeks, maybe, but I can’t see that the accumulation of points over the last seven months of the Premier League is luck.
“I think that’s an insult to the players, I really, really do. They might not be technically the best, but they go out and give us as much as they can give. That’s all you can ask.”
Newcastle’s lack of fluency was highlighted by the coherent football Norwich played at St James’ Park, albeit it without tangible reward, with Bruce having reverted to the conservative approach the club took under predecessor Rafael Benitez after his early attempts to play a more expansive game.
He said: “I could play the way Norwich play quite easily but, for me, it’s all about keeping the club where we need to be. I could change just like that but I think if we changed to four at the back, we’d be in trouble.
“Look, I set us up to play this way because I think it suits the squad and it suits the team and it suits where we are at this particular moment, and I will make no excuses for it – that we are difficult to play against, difficult to beat, and can we pose a threat on the counter-attack?”
Bruce, who takes his team to League One Oxford for a FA Cup fourth round replay on Tuesday evening, admits he has been unable to put his stamp on the Magpies yet.
Asked if it looks like his team, he replied: “Not really, not yet.”