STEVE BRUCE admits Newcastle United’s second-half capitulation at Arsenal underlines just how hard he is finding it to adopt a more expansive playing style with the Magpies.

Having been on level terms at the break at the Emirates, Bruce’s side collapsed spectacularly after the interval as Arsenal strolled to a 4-0 win.

Goals from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Pepe, Mezut Ozil and Alexandre Lacazette ended Newcastle’s eight-game unbeaten run and left the Magpies seven points clear of the relegation zone with 12 games to play.

Their failure to score was hardly a surprise given their attacking struggles this season, but their defensive collapse was rather more unusual, with Bruce citing his attempts to be more expansive as an explanation for the concession of four second-half goals.

Having watched Arsenal claim two goals in the space of three minutes, Bruce switched to a flat back four, only for the Gunners to add two more goals in stoppage time.

“I’ve said many times that we’re not really capable of changing, and you probably saw that towards the end,” said the Newcastle boss. “We changed things to try to get back into it, and in that change we had two big opportunities. But we did become ragged.

“When we open up, we lose it at the other end and become too open. I have to say Martin (Dubravka) has been fantastic all season, but it’s a poor mistake (for Ozil’s goal). Then when you see Lacazette hit one and the ball come off his other foot and go in the top corner, you know it’s not your day. We have to move on, but the way we were so open at the end is a concern.”

Newcastle’s lack of a cutting edge is also worrying, with Joelinton once again struggling as he attempted to lead the line as a lone striker.

With Andy Carroll still two or three weeks away from fitness, and neither Dwight Gayle nor Yoshinori Muto available to feature in the squad, Joelinton was Newcastle’s only available centre-forward, but not for the first time this season, the Brazilian never really looked like scoring.

“We have to find a way of scoring more, and certainly with Jo, of being a bit more selfish,” said Bruce. “In my opinion, he has to probably stay between the 18-yard box a bit more. For the team, he’s a great team player, but your centre-forward is always judged on how many goals he scores.

“We’d all like him to have 12 or 15 by now, although I was pleased with his performance again. He does a lot of unselfish work outside the box, but we have to find a way of getting him into the box for the crosses that Allan put in.

“He’s played a lot of his career to a side and not played as an out-and-out number nine. He’s 22 and there’s a lot he has to learn. The way he played again today was good, although all strikers are obviously judged by scoring a goal.”

Newcastle actually shaded things before the break, albeit without really troubling Bernd Leno, but the game changed in a three-minute spell before the hour mark, with Aubameyang heading home from close range before Pepe converted Bukayo Saka’s cross.

“We’ve given poor goals away,” said Bruce. “If there’s one thing we’ve done this season, it’s prided ourselves on not giving much away. The first half was as good as we’ve played on a big stage for a long time. However, we’ve made a mistake and then we’ve got punished for the second one too.

“Once we start analysing the third and fourth one, then all of a sudden it becomes a bit of a shock really because nobody expected it. It’s the frustration of that really, but that’s the Premier League. You make a mistake at this level and you get punished, and we’ve been punished a couple of times.

“Even when we got to 2-0, we had big chances, but we didn’t take them and there lies out Achilles heel. We’ve had one or two really big opportunities and made the wrong choice of pass or cross. But overall, in the first half, I was delighted with the way we played.”