So tomorrow is (hopefully) the first game of a new era, looking forward to see what will be the Newcastle team v Brentford at a sold out St James Park.
As games go, I think this is a great opportunity for Eddie Howe to start us off on the front foot.
Brentford, while looking dangerous at the beginning of the season, have started to fade as the season goes on, losing to bottom club Norwich last time out – not a great look as Norwich had looked very sparse in front of goal all season.
Brentford are also carrying several injuries, most notably Ajer and keeper David Raya, which is surely going to have a huge impact on them.
In contrast, we seem to be pretty much fully stocked for tomorrow’s match, with the somewhat obvious exception of perennial injury magnet Dummett.
With that in mind, I think anything other than a win will be very disappointing for Howe / the owners / the fans.
Here’s the Newcastle team v Brentford that I think Eddie Howe will pick (not my preferred choices), lining up in a 4-2-3-1 formation.
Please, please, drop Darlow.
He’s had his chances and has been found wanting.
Surely after another international break, this is the time to recall our undisputed best keeper. If not now, when?
LB and RB – Lewis and Manquillo
I think Lewis may be one of the players to get a much fairer shot under Howe, having been cast aside under the dark days of the Steves’ reign.
Ritchie doesn’t suit as a conventional full back, and we clearly need someone more defensive out wide, as our main problem this season has been the conceding of goals, rather than the scoring of them.
Manquillo I think has been pretty reliable throughout the season, so no change there for me. Murphy is in the same boat as Ritchie – not defensive enough to be an orthodox full back and I would really not want to see Krafth there. The only real position he can actually play in for me, is as a right centre back in a three, and even then only as a squad player.
CBs – Schar and Lascelles
I think Lascelles is safe from being dropped here, mainly because he’s the captain rather than any amazing performances he’s put in (lucky boy!) As Schar has been bigging up Howe in the media lately, I think he might be in line for a start, and he’ll surely bring some ball playing ability to a defence that sorely needs it. Fernandez is a steady presence I wouldn’t mind seeing either, but as for the others I think Clark is past it, Krafth is a squad player at best (and wouldn’t work in a back 2), and Hayden is better played in midfield. CB is definitely an investment area for January in my opinion.
Midfield pivot – Hayden and Shelvey
Remember – not my choice – but I think Howe will give Shelvey a chance to prove himself tomorrow. Whether you think he deserves it is another question entirely…
Hayden I think is our only real option as a defensive midfielder, another area for reinforcements in January perhaps?
Willock or Longstaff could play in the freer role (I’d probably play Willock there), and lets all hope Hendrick gets nowhere near the pitch.
Attacking midfield trio – ASM (left), Willock (centre), Fraser (right)
Again, I think Fraser will be one who gets another chance under Howe. He’s worked with him before and knows how to get the best out of him, so maybe a lift in form after the turgid displays we’ve been forced to see lately.
In fairness, it was while being played as a CM under Bruce “tactics.” Willock will play number ten, freeing him up to get forward, and of course ASM is an undisputed starter on the left.
Almiron, Ritchie, Joelinton and Murphy can all offer something coming off the bench. Personally, I’d have Willock over Shelvey and Almiron in the number ten role, but that’s just me.
Striker – Wilson
Again, another undisputed starter.
Wilson will be our main source of goals for the season (if he stays fit) and another player who has worked with Howe before. He’s already been quoted saying he’s glad to be further up the pitch in training, so hopefully we see a more front foot approach across the team in general tomorrow (not that that’s a difficult task).
Overall, I’m cautiously optimistic about tomorrow’s game, but I won’t jinx it with a prediction!
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