Newcastle product Michael Chopra has held little back since United appointed Steve Bruce as Rafa Benitez’s successor, having slammed the new Magpies head coach’s record as a manager.
But recent damning comments by the 35-year-old to talkSPORT over how Bruce operates in training offer a worrying sign that the Toon are in for a full-blown relegation scrap unless things are changed at Darsley Park, and soon.
According to the former Newcastle, Sunderland and Cardiff City striker, the Magpies first-team are not being correctly drilled in training on match tactics, and often head into games not knowing their roles for the tie.
This could help to explain the catastrophic second-half scenes in the opening day defeat to Arsenal, where Jetro Willems was brought on to replace the injured Jonjo Shelvey and dawdled around the centre of the field before taking up his natural left-back slot with Matt Richie drafted into midfield.
Bruce had issues getting Allan Saint-Maximin to take up his desired position in the same game, too, and the entire defence were horrific against Norwich City at the weekend, as the reigning Championship title holders ran the Magpies backline ragged to run out 3-1 victors.
“I’ve spoken to some senior players at the club – I won’t mention their names – and under Benitez, everything was drilled into them on the training pitch: the team shape, how they were going to play – every day,” Chopra claimed.
“Bruce has come in, and some of the players don’t know their jobs – they are not really working on their shape.”
As well as concerns over how Bruce is orchestrating his training sessions, Chopra also doubts the talent of some of the players on hand to the Magpies boss, which could ensure we spend the season at the wrong end of the table.
“At Newcastle, for two or three years, those players have overachieved under Benitez” he added. “But I don’t think some of the players are good enough for the Premier League. So they need coaching.
“Once the first goal went in [at Norwich], some of them dropped their heads, and you’re expecting to go to Norwich and at least to try [and] get a point – or three points. They are a newly-promoted team, who have come into the Premier League and you’d expect Newcastle to be doing better than how they did.”
Bruce is expected to have a changed line-up for when we travel to Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday, with a move to a flat back four in the offing.