Newcastle’s formation has been a key factor this season.
After starting with four at the back, Rafa Benitez reverted to a defensive five to make his team more solid. It worked, and Newcastle have got better in the formation each passing week.
But with Paul Dummett returning from injury and the arrival of Miguel Almiron, Benitez could have been tempted to revert back to his original shape.
However, his formation against CSKA Moscow on Saturday suggests he won’t be making the change.
Friendly team selection hints at future plans
If Benitez was interested in going to four at the back, Saturday would have been the perfect time to try it.
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He selected a strong starting XI, with first-choice centre-backs Fabian Schar, Jamaal Lascelles and Florian Lejeune all starting. This trio have formed a great understanding in recent weeks, all bringing different things to the party.
In the second half in Spain, Benitez did go back to his 4-4-1-1 formation, but with a severely different team. Dummett played as a centre-back, while Matt Ritchie operated on the left side of defence.
If Benitez wanted to go back to four in defence, surely he would’ve tried it with his best options. While Almiron would likely thrive as a number 10 behind the striker, the gaffer waited until the second half and instead played Yoshinori Muto there.
Surely if he was considering changing formation again, he would’ve started with it in Saturday’s ultimately meaningless friendly?