What system - and why?
I hinted in midweek it could be the perfect opportunity to experiment with a 4-2-3-1 for the Carabao Cup, but as Bruce did not agree, I think it would be far from wise to so in the Premier League this weekend.
I suspect if things go poorly again against the Saints, an international break might see some tweaks and changes, much like it did at the back end of last season.
So, for me, stick with the 5-3-2. For now, anyway. And here’s who I’d name in the starting XI this afternoon.
GOALKEEPER: Freddie Woodman
Another penalty save that unfortunately meant nothing for Newcastle United on Wednesday. A first clean sheet, though, will hopefully have done wonders for confidence levels. He needed that one.
RIGHT WING-BACK: Javier Manquillo
The Spaniard showed on Wednesday, in his natural role, how much Newcastle can benefit from playing a defensive player in a defensive position. Lacks the final third quality of struggling Jacob Murphy, but much more solid going the other way.
LEFT WING-BACK: Matt Ritchie
As decent as Jamal Lewis was against Burnley, and as solid as United looked defensively, I think it would be a tough one to take Ritchie out the side. Tough to replace the chances he creates, and his delivery. That delivery, however, does need to improve from Villa Park.
RIGHT CENTRAL DEFENDER: Fabian Schar
Improved the United backline at Villa Park and I’d expect him to keep his place in the XI, as a result. A much more elegant and well-rounded player than alternative Emil Krafth.
CENTRAL DEFENDER: Jamaal Lascelles
More minutes under his belt in the League Cup, the skipper’s fitness should be about there now. And despite his penalty misdemeanour, deserves to keep his place in the side.
LEFT CENTRAL DEFENDER: Federico Fernandez
His experience is invaluable. Not best suited on the left of the three, but has the game ‘smarts’ to do it. Ciaran Clark, for the record, was much-improved against the Clarets, however, I’d expect the Argentine to remain in the side.
DEEP CENTRAL MIDFIELDER: Sean Longstaff
Has shown enough in the last game and a half to suggest he maybe can fill Jonjo Shelvey’s boots in the deep-lying pivot in this system. More of the same needed this afternoon from a player who has shown little in the way of consistency for quite some time.
RIGHT CENTRAL MIDFIELDER: Joe Willock
Slotted his penalty away perfectly, and linked up well with ASM in the Carabao Cup. Hopefully a step closer to fitness, too, as he looked some way off down in the Midlands.
LEFT CENTRAL MIDFIELDER: Miguel Almiron
I’ve not been impressed by Almiron this season, nor have I ever really been overly excited by any of his performances in the midfield three. Needs to be played higher really, but needs must. And should another underwhelming show transpire, I’d be looking to switch things up in this department sharpish.
FORWARD: Callum Wilson
Joelinton, and to a lesser extent Dwight Gayle, showed flashes against Burnley but neither really put down a marker to say they can ever replace Wilson, if he gets injured. And that’s what it will take for a change in this department, with the former Bournemouth man the first name on the team sheet.
FORWARD: Allan Saint-Maximin
Things haven’t really gone his way in the last two games. Villa found a way of doubling up on him, while little he touched turned to gold on Wednesday. Wasn’t helped by Burnley’s rough house tactics when he got the ball. His x-factor keeps him the side, though.