Looking at this Newcastle team against Leeds.
You have to ask yourself, is that a six-pointer already?
Or at least three points that Newcastle United “must” win?
For the next six games Newcastle will play at Watford, Wolves, Palace and Brighton, while the only home games during this period that will lead us to the international break in November are Spurs and Chelsea.
With Newcastle United already on the relegation point and only Norwich preventing NUFC from bottoming out, points and a confidence boost against Bielsa’s side are badly needed.
So here is my pick of the Newcastle team against Leeds for next Friday night and my reasons for this eleven.
As a starting point…
That was the Newcastle team against Man Utd:
Woodman, Manquillo, Hayden, Lascelles, Clark, Ritchie, Sean Longstaff, Almiron, Willock, Saint-Maximin, Joelinton
I’m making a total of six changes that I would make to the starting XI, which was hammered 4-1 at Old Trafford, with a significant change in direction in terms of both team selection and tactics / setup.
It’s unfortunate to do so soon after Woodman made the mistake for his first goal at Old Trafford, but I think Darlow should play now.
I don’t think Woodman did much wrong and the vast majority of the problems came from those who faced him. However, now that Darlow is fit, I would have played him no matter what had happened against Man Utd.
Switching from a chain of five to a chain of four is also another easy choice in my opinion.
There is no magic answer with Steve Bruce in charge and Mike Ashley compounding problems with his ridiculous summer transfer window. However, having a back five is clearly not a positive this season, with more goals conceded than any other PL team and it’s hard to see how a back four would fare worse under Bruce’s direction.
Manquillo an easy pick as a right-back, arguably Newcastle’s best player on Saturday and next to his goal he reminded us that he is by far the best NUFC defender on the right.
On the flip side, like Murphy, Ritchie had proven to be a weak point when it came to defending this season, Lewis is at least quick and agile and worth a chance against a Leeds team that play with pace and energy.
In the middle, Fernandez is by far our best defender and organized to play in central defense, while Fabian Schar can help Newcastle play better football from behind alongside the defense. Lascelles was bad on both form and leadership so could take a step back to sort himself out.
To continue the theme of trying to get that much pace and soccer / passing ability into the team, I’d overlook Hayden in midfield.
Newcastle need to keep up with Leeds as much as possible in these departments, competing higher on the field and hopefully winning the ball back in dangerous areas.
Murphy is not a defender and I think we can get a better overall performance out of him if he plays higher. Moving forward is his forte, and it’s not bad at catching interceptions and getting the ball back.
Sean Longstaff did well in the middle, although Bruce’s formation / tactics were often outnumbered. While Joe Willock completes a mobile midfield to compete with his Leeds colleagues.
Since Callum Wilson has no return date, I know Dwight Gayle is not an ideal replacement BUT he’s the only one we have! Joelinton is sad and although I saw fans pointing out a few things he did at Old Trafford, overall he continues to be terrible and you would be amazed if he ever scored another goal. Six out of seventy-two PL appearances say it all.
Put Gayle in goalscoring positions and he can score goals, Leeds has been weak at the back and I think he can have some joy on Friday night when he’s on the field for the first (!) Time in the Premier League this season.
On Saturday we saw how Miguel Almiron sometimes showed us how well he converts the defense into attack, no more than with the goal he constructed for Manquillo.
Almiron needs to be encouraged along with ASM to move further up and if Newcastle can win the ball back in dangerous areas this pair can open up opportunities for both themselves and Dwight Gayle.
My Newcastle team against Leeds:
Darlow, Manquillo, Fernandez, Schar, Lewis, Willock, Murphy, Sean Longstaff, Almiron, Saint-Maximin, Gayle