STEVE BRUCE insists he is still the right man to turn things around at Newcastle United – despite last night’s 3-0 defeat at Arsenal extending the Magpies’ winless run to nine matches.

Newcastle lost at the Emirates Stadium for the second time in just over a week, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s second-half brace sandwiching a slick counter-attacking goal from Bukayo Saka.

Bruce changed personnel and formation in an attempt to make his side more of a threat last night, but the Magpies’ failure to score means they have now managed just one goal in their last seven matches in all competitions.

That record has led to increased demands for a change of manager, but with Mike Ashley seemingly determined to stand by his current boss, Bruce remains convinced he can arrest his side’s dramatic decline.

“I’ve been in it (management) a long, long time, and I’ve managed to do it before,” said the embattled Newcastle boss. “When you’re in the bottom half of the Premier League, the reason why you’re there is because at some stage of the season, you’re going to have a difficult spell and a difficult run.

“It’s how you deal with it and cope with it. I’m never going to shy away from it, so yes, 100 per cent (he remains the right man to turn things around).”

Bruce was deeply critical of his side’s performance in last week’s defeat at Sheffield United, and last night’s changes were made in an attempt to avoid a repeat of events at Bramall Lane.

Newcastle lined up with four at the back rather than with the five-man defensive system they have fielded in recent games, and Bruce paired Andy Carroll with Callum Wilson in attack while also starting with Miguel Almiron and Joelinton in midfield.

The Magpies failed to seriously test Bernd Leno in the Arsenal goal though, and while they were able to keep things relatively tight in the first half, they were repeatedly sliced apart after the interval.

Nevertheless, Bruce regarded his side’s performance as a step up from last Tuesday, even if the end result was an even heavier defeat.

“I thought it was better in the first half in particular,” said Bruce, who revealed that Dwight Gayle was not involved in last night’s squad because he is suffering from an illness that is not believed to be Covid. “Of course, in the last third, we missed that final pass or didn’t have that little bit of whatever, but there’s no denying that confidence is a little bit low at the moment.

“We’ve had a difficult run, and the only way through it is to stick with it and stick to your beliefs, and change.

“We’re not alone, that’s why you’re in the bottom half of the Premier League. But it’s about how you cope with the situation we find ourselves in at the minute. Are we in a relegation battle? I think half the Premier League is in a relegation battle, is it not?"