Rafa Benitez’s Newcastle played brilliantly with three centre-backs, but there was no guarantee Steve Bruce would use the same system.
On the face of it, Bruce is an old school manager who you’d expect to play 4-4-2 and nothing else. However, that doesn’t seem to be the case.
During pre-season, we’ve seen a slight variation on the theme. We’ve maintained three centre-backs, but Bruce has operated with three centre-midfielders as well. Instead of Benitez’s 3-4-3, it’s now more of a 3-5-2.
Whether this slight change makes a big difference remains to be seen, but keeping the defensive system the same is a great call by the manager. And that’s mainly because of Fabian Schar.
The Swiss defender was amazing last season, becoming a fans’ favourite pretty quickly. With his expert long balls, glorious bursts from the back, sublime strikes and heroic defending, Schar was one of the players of the season.
And that was largely down to the formation getting the best out of him. As the right-sided centre-back, Schar had a bit more licence to be creative and take a risk. If we utilised a defensive pair instead of a trio, Schar wouldn’t be able to play the way he does, or he’d get caught out a lot more.
Bruce seems to have recognised this, and has brought in a system that will continue to get the best out of one of his top players.
Hopefully Schar has a similar season, and the defender is sounding confident.
“You can see on the pitch that we’re doing a lot of good things,” he told BBC Newcastle.
“So we know what he [Bruce] wants from us and I think, also, with the system and everything we played, it fits for our players.”
With limited new arrivals, there’ll be pressure on Schar to provide some spark and creativity, which isn’t something you should really be saying about a centre-back.