A lot of questions have been asked about Steve Bruce’s Newcastle United starting XI this season.
After four games in all competitions, the Magpies are yet to win once. They’ve picked up just one point in the Premier League and crashed out of the Carabao Cup on penalties.
In every game Bruce has deployed a 3-5-2 formation. This system worked brilliantly at the back end of last season as we moved away from the relegation zone.
However, it isn’t working as well this season. Something needs to change, but what is Steve Bruce’s best Newcastle United team if everyone is fit?
First things first, the formation needs to change. While it worked last season, it’s stifling far too many players this time around.
Instead, Bruce needs to change to a back four. A 4-3-3 formation would be much better suited, and get more out of our exciting attacking talent.
Right now the likes of Miguel Almiron and Allan Saint-Maximin are being wasted in their current positions.
While Newcastle have had goalkeeping woes over the summer, most fans will agree that Martin Dubravka is still first choice. He’s the most experienced and the most composed, and a player we are desperately missing right now.
Freddie Woodman has done okay, but is being let down by the defenders in front of him. Part of the problem is the current wing-backs, both of whom are naturally midfielders.
Instead we need proper fullbacks who want to defend. At right-back, Javi Manquillo should get the nod over Emil Krafth. On the left it’s a no-brainer – Paul Dummett. While he isn’t fashionable or attacking, he knows how to do the basics at the back.
Bruce wanted to sign a defender this summer but failed, leaving our centre-back options somewhat underwhelming.
Our best pairing is probably Jamaal Lascelles and Federico Fernandez.
Centre-midfield is another position Bruce wanted to improve this summer, but was only able to bring in Joe Willock.
The summer signing is an obvious starter, on the right of a central three. He has the legs to burst from deep, which is why we would be better off deploying a 4-3-3 system instead of a 4-2-3-1.
In the middle of the three would be Isaac Hayden. He has the legs to protect the defence, and is as disciplined as they come at Newcastle right now.
The central role has normally gone to Shelvey, but he just isn’t energetic enough. But that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t start.
Instead, I’ve got Shelvey as the left of the three. His passing ability is still unrivalled, even if he is inconsistent.
The front three should be no surprise – Saint-Maximin, Callum Wilson and Almiron. And they should start in that order from right to left.
Wilson is the obvious striker. He’s the number nine and our only natural goalscorer. We’ve already seen that this season with two excellent close range headers.
As for Almiron, we’ve seen how inefficient he is down the right. Bruce often persisted with him in that position during his first-season with limited success.
But he was on the left under Rafa Benitez and looked much more dangerous. It allows him to play down his strongest side, and get balls into the box.
The same can be said about Saint-Maximin. He’s our most gifted player, but he’s being crowded out in the middle. He can be just as dangerous out wide, especially with a poacher like Wilson in the box.
Saint-Maximin’s ability to isolate players is sensational, and we’ve seen him be lethal down the right. In both games against Burnley last season he either scored or created a goal from that position.
With that starting XI we have much more balance across the pitch. We also have options on the bench who can make a difference. The likes of Ryan Fraser, Joelinton and Jacob Murphy. for instance. There’s also Sean Longstaff who could come in for any of the three midfielders.
While Bruce’s 3-5-2 formation worked last season, now it’s hindering us. This is our strongest XI if every Newcastle player is fit.
Newcastle United’s best starting XI
(4-3-3) Dubravka; Manquillo, Lascelles, Fernandez, Dummett; Willock, Hayden, Shelvey; Saint-Maximin, Wilson, Almiron.