After much deliberation, this is the team we are predicting Steve Bruce will select for tomorrow’s match against Burnley. It has five changes from the 1-0 loss at Crystal Palace.
Keith Downie’s revelation this morning that Bruce would move away from having five at the back heavily influenced our thinking with this formation. We had assumed he’d keep five at the back and go with two strikers and a three man midfield.
However, there are problems with that as it doesn’t suit our most dangerous player, Allan Saint-Maximin. So it’s a return to the 4-4-1-1, which Bruce used at Leicester City in September.
A conventional 4-4-2 was under consideration with Joelinton and Gayle as the strikers, but that’s too similar to how Burnley play, and we think Joelinton will be dropped over Miguel Almiron.
While it’s a risk to start Jonjo Shelvey so soon after returning, Bruce has shown a propensity to start players after being back in training. So it’s likely that Shelvey and Isaac Hayden will be back together again in the midfield.
Our thinking on the wings is getting crosses into the box. With a flat back four, Ritchie would be vulnerable at left-back so he’s moved further up the pitch to swing in deliveries from the left.
That moves Allan Saint-Maximin to the right wing, where he can continue to run at the opposition but also head for the byline and whip in some crosses.
While both Gayle and Almiron are diminutive in stature, their movement and quickness could allow them to pounce on loose balls.
Newcastle also released a video of a training session on Thursday, where they worked extensively on sending low crosses into the area.
This will also allow Dwight Gayle to sit higher up the pitch as Almiron can drop deep to link with the midfield. It’s also a possibility Bruce sticks with Joelinton but in a deeper role, and Miguel moves to the left-wing.
However, dropping Matt Ritchie for three straight matches would not be advisable. If it ends up not working very well, Ritchie and Saint-Maximin can easily switch flanks and play as inverted wingers which is similar to how Bruce played on occasion when at Aston Villa.
Lascelles and Fernandez are the safest pairing at center-back in a back four while Rose and Manquillo are the best options at full-back unless Emil Krafth is deemed fit. The Swede returned to training this week. DeAndre Yedlin is too much of a defensive liability in this formation.
There could be too many sweeping changes for Bruce to go this route. However, he’s got to remove some of the restraints he’s put on this team and we’re trying to get inside Bruce’s head a bit. So keep in mind this is a prediction, not a recommendation. 🙂
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