Steve Bruce rang in the changes last week against Tottenham. It produced what Bruce dubbed during his press conference this morning as ‘arguably one of our best performances of the season.’
Against Spurs, Bruce reverted to a back three with wing-backs after utilizing the 4-3-3 for the previous 9 matches. The 4-3-3, or diamond formation, worked wonders when first implemented at Everton, producing a surprisingly competent 2-0 win.
However, that system is sometimes easily prepared for as we witnessed in the following weeks. It was also a formation that didn’t suit this squad without key players like Allan Saint-Maximin and Callum Wilson.
So with Wilson still unavailable last weekend, and Saint-Maximin only available from the bench, Bruce went with the 5-3-2 while handing starts to players like Matt Ritchie, Jacob Murphy, and Sean Longstaff, who had barely played over the past few months.
With the revelation this morning that Wilson and Saint-Maximin were available and raring to go for Burnley on Sunday, Bruce was asked about what formation would get the best out of his star players.
The question primarily involved Allan Saint-Maximin, who came on for Dwight Gayle up front against Spurs. This is how Bruce handled the question:
“Great question. Very good question.
“That is the conundrum that I face all the time is getting the right system and getting your better players on the pitch.
“For example, we used a back three last week. I think it was more of a back three rather than a five with Matt Ritchie and Jacob Murphy.
“Last week, we got the balance just right. I was very very pleased.
“However, we did concede twice. Once was an awful, awful mistake. The second goal for them, if your Tottenham you’d be purring about it because of the quality that it showed.
“Look, that’s the balance that we have to try and get right. I have that conundrum every week or every other week. So, I hope I make the right decision.
“I’m sure there were a few raised eyebrows last week amongst you all before we kicked off.
“The players played very well. Whatever role or system it certainly suited us last week.”
It’ll be interesting to see what team and formation Bruce will go with at Turf Moor. He may opt to keep relatively the same team, though unfortunately without Jamaal Lascelles, and save Wilson and Saint-Maximin as impact substitutions.
Bruce admitted that he had to ‘box clever’ with both of them due to them returning from muscle injuries as opposed to impact injuries which are easier to gauge. However, he also stated that Wilson looked great in training, and with just 8 matches remaining he could start on Sunday.
Newcastle had one of our better performances of the season in the home fixture against Burnley to start October. Callum Wilson got a brace but it was Allan Saint-Maximin who put in the Man of the Match performance with a goal and an assist. He signed a new contract soon after that match.
Bruce used a 4-4-2 back then with Joelinton alongside Wilson and Saint-Maximin starting out on the left-wing, though he swapped positions later in the match. However, there would be no room for Matt Ritchie or Jacob Murphy if Bruce reverted to a back four on Sunday.
So Bruce has some team selection decisions to ponder. Let’s not forget that Joelinton had one of his best performances on Sunday so it could be back to the 5-3-2 with Wilson and Big Joe leading the line.