While there are certainly positives to take out of Newcastle United’s loss against Tottenham Hotspur yesterday, the lack of options available to Rafa Benitez was painfully evident.
Indeed, the Magpies will clearly be hard to beat this season, though are missing just a pinch of quality to give even top teams things to think about on the counter attack.
All that could change with the arrivals of Stoke City striker Joselu and Chelsea youngster Kenedy. Though neither would be seen as a marquee addition, perhaps they provide the tools to help the Toon Army avoid a relegation scrap.
As was evident against Spurs, Newcastle have options in central defence, good ones at that, and they CAN keep a disciplined defensive shape. Until Jonjo Shelvey’s red card, the Magpies did well to keep the likes of Dele Alli, Harry Kane and Christian Eriksen at bay and were certainly in the game.
Now, that’s not to say that trio wouldn’t have found a way through even with Shelvey in the side, though the early signs looked rather promising. If Newcastle are going to avoid being dragged into a relegation scrap, they’re going to need to be hard to beat.
With that in mind, perhaps Kenedy and Joselu arriving hints at a new formation, or at least an option for such tactical fluidity.
Benitez has largely deployed the 4-2-3-1 formation he is synonymous with since taking over the club back in March 2016, though that style is becoming increasingly out of fashion in the Premier League.
Obviously, switching to a three-man defence – as so many teams have done of late – is no guarantee of success, though could provide Benitez with an interesting option.
The likes of Chancel Mbemba, Florian Lejeune and Ciaran Clark/Jamaal Lascelles would all be comfortable operating in a defensive triumvirate and DeAndre Yedlin has all the tools to be a wing-back on the right-hand side.
Kenedy may be somewhat of an unknown quantity, though did perform well under Guus Hiddink for the Blues back in March 2016 when deployed as a left-back, scoring within a minute against Norwich.
Paul Dummett and the industrious Christian Atsu could act as competition, giving the Magpies a solid defensive line should they switch to a 3-5-2, 5-3-2 or 3-4-3 system.
In central midfield, Mikel Merino clearly has an abundance in quality when on the ball and paired next to either Shelvey or Isaac Hayden represents a relatively strong spine.
Joselu, meanwhile, looks like bringing far more physicality to Newcastle’s frontline. The Spaniard is a danger in the air and paired next to Dwight Gayle, or flanked by the likes of Jacob Murphy and Matt Ritchie, certainly provides a new dynamic.
Newcastle’s team may not be perfect and neither is this system. Simply reverting from their current set-up to another means little unless deployed correctly.
Still, what’s important is that new the additions give Benitez options to switch things up at St. James’ Park. While he’s working on a limited budget, being able to freshen things up with the tools in front of him is of paramount importance.