The Premier League returns this weekend, and Newcastle have a tricky starter with a home game against Unai Emery’s Arsenal, for Steve Bruce’s first competitive game in charge.
Arsenal have been big spenders this summer, leaving their business late in the window, as Newcastle did, and it will be interesting to see how many of their new names will be in the team.
Regardless of whether there are protests or boycotts, it will be a big day for Newcastle’s new boys, and while much of the focus will be on the number of possible empty seats, or marching protesters outside the ground, when the whistle blows, and the game starts, all the focus will be on the players.
So who will be in the starting lineup on Sunday?
Three centre-backs is the likely defensive formation
Since his arrival, Bruce has pereferred to use three centre-backs during pre-season, and it would be a surprise if he did not follow suit against the Gunners.
The biggest question will be which three players he plumps for.
Jamaal Lascelles and Fabian Schar are almost certain to play, and the final spot is likely to be between Federico Fernandez and Paul Dummett, with the latter favourite to be chosen.
A midfield three will be used to counter the Arsenal threat
For games against so-called ‘lesser opposition’, Bruce will want to play a more expansive game, and would probably just utilise two traditional central midfielders, with a third playing a more advanced role.
Against Arsenal, however, there is probably going to be a third body added, to play a slightly more defensive formation, due to the attacking flair that the visitors will have.
So we think Jonjo Shelvey will slot in, with Hayden dropping back to protect the defence.
Joelinton will hope for a fast start
Record signing Joelinton is certain to start up front, and fans will be excited to see if he can live up to his £40 million billing.
The key to Joelinton’s success will largely be down to the form of those around him, with the mouth-watering prospect of Miguel Almiron and Allan Saint-Maximin supplying the Brazilian, a tantalising one for supporters.
But for this game, Saint-Maximin could well make an impact from the bench, with a more defensive-minded lineup expected.
Getting the ball to them consistently will be key against Arsenal, and should they get at them from the start and sneak an early goal, they will have something to hold onto, and confidence will grow.
It will be a difficult test for the new-look Newcastle, and even a point will be seen as a decent result.
This is the lineup we expect to start against Arsenal in a 3-5-1-1 formation: Dubravka; Lascelles, Schar, Dummett; Krafth, Longstaff, Shelvey, Hayden, Willems; Almiron; Joelinton.