Steve Bruce stressed defensive organisation is being prioritised as the Newcastle head coach admitted his side have let in too many goals for his liking in the early stages of the season.
After conceding three times late on against Manchester United to lose 4-1 a fortnight ago, Bruce made several changes and put in place a new formation at Wolves last week in an attempt to provide ballast to the backline.
While Bruce was enthused by the improved showing at Molineux, Newcastle rarely threatened Wolves going forwards and were a touch fortunate to came away with a point after Jacob Murphy’s late free-kick salvaged a 1-1 draw.
Bruce says he would prefer a bolder approach but because Newcastle have only kept one clean sheet in six Premier League matches this season, shipping 10 goals, he is putting a greater emphasis on his side’s defence.
“Look, we’d all love to play in a free, open, flowing game and play two or three up top, but when we open ourselves up we concede, there lies the balance,” Bruce said ahead of Newcastle’s match against Everton on Sunday afternoon.
“Yes, we’d love to be a bit more adventurous but we can’t expect to score two and three every week and that’s what we’re having to do to win a match. We’re conceding far too many.
“Since the start of the season, we’ve been too easy at times to play against and that can’t be the case. We have to do the basics well, defend well and that was more like it against Wolves.
“It wasn’t a real, wonderful spectacle, I understand that. But the way the players went about their work, I couldn’t have asked for anything more.
“Yes we need to be a bit more adventurous when we’ve got to and look after the ball better and that’s what we’ll keep working on, but we have to give ourselves that defensive organisation which has been there for a long time.”
Jamaal Lascelles is a major doubt for the Toffees’ visit after the Newcastle captain limped off at Wolves with a foot injury but the Longstaff brothers – Sean and Matty – and fellow midfielder Isaac Hayden are available again.
While it has been a patchy start to the season for Newcastle, with two wins, two draws and two defeats, Everton have collected 13 points from their six league matches.
However, they have drawn and lost their last two matches, with Jordan Pickford coming under renewed scrutiny in the last couple of weeks following a rash challenge on Liverpool defender Virgil Van Dijk in the Merseyside derby.
The England goalkeeper was coming through the ranks at Sunderland and signed his first professional deal shortly before Bruce left the club in 2011.
Bruce said: “He’s a very, very, very good goalkeeper.
“When you’re England’s number one, the one thing that happens is you’re there to be shot at and every mistake he makes will be highlighted. That goes with the territory of being England’s number one.
“He’ll have to deal with that but certainly when he’s played for England, he’s never let anybody down.”