Rafa Benitez’s 5-4-1 formation worked a treat on Monday night.
With Paul Dummett out injured, Benitez decided to change the shape of his side rather than bring in a replacement left-back. While this was bad news for Javier Manquillo, it was the platform for another fantastic Newcastle win.
Next up for the Magpies is West Ham, and Benitez has a big decision to make regarding the team’s shape.
Stick with 5-4-1
If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.
The Magpies are on a brilliant run as of late, and Benitez might be keen to keep a settled side.
With no new injury concerns, the Spaniard could easily name the same starting XI against the Hammers.
The system actually seemed to benefit Matt Ritchie, who found himself in loads of space on the left-flank. While this isn’t Ritchie’s favoured side, he’ll have appreciated the extra time on the ball.
Newcastle’s three centre-backs did brilliantly at Turf Moor, and the system might be one Benitez wants to use more consistently going forward. We’ve seen it used against the big boys, but this was the first time we’ve seen Newcastle use a back five and actually be able to attack.
Go back to 4-4-2
While the 5-4-1 formation did work on Monday, it might not be necessary against West Ham.
Burnley played with two big forwards who are strong in the air. Therefore it was a good idea for Benitez to counteract them by playing three central defenders.
Manuel Pellegrini’s side are likely to start the game with a sole forward in the shape of Marko Arnautovic, who poses a very different threat.
It might be unwise of Benitez to play with five at the back, in a game where the home fans will be expecting Newcastle to take the game to the Londoners.
It will be harsh to drop one of Fabian Schar, Federico Fernandez or Ciaran Clark, but it’s nice to have options at least. There’s also the possible return of Jamaal Lascelles, who has missed Newcastle’s last two games due to injury.
Benitez could keep the same core XI players and move Clark out to left-back. However, there would be concerns about his mobility.
5-4-1 may have worked on Monday, but don’t be surprised if Benitez changes things again.