Recall key duo & switch formation: FIVE Newcastle United selection dilemmas for Wolves clash

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Newcastle United head coach Eddie Howe is faced with a few selection dilemmas ahead Friday’s Premier League clash with Wolves.

Newcastle United host Wolverhampton Wanderers on Friday evening - and head coach Eddie Howe is facing a few selection dilemmas.

Howe’s side return to St James’ Park for the first time since March 5 when a 2-1 victory over Brighton and Hove Albion was recorded.

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That was the eighth match of the Magpies’ nine-game unbeaten run, which came to end following a last-gasp defeat at Chelsea a week later.

United are now on a run of three straight defeats but the aim is to bounce back against Wolves after Sunday’s 5-1 hammering at Tottenham Hotspur.

Our writer Jordan Cronin takes a look at FIVE selection dilemmas Howe has ahead of Friday:

Right time for a system change?

Since the turn of the year, the 4-3-3 formation - including the midfield three of Jonjo Shelvey, Joe Willock and Joelinton - has served United extraordinarily well.

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A nine-game unbeaten run and a surge away from the Premier League relegation zone, the trio, plus the partnership of Dan Burn and Fabian Schar at centre-half and the excellent form of Ryan Fraser have been absolutely instrumental.

But at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, the system was dismantled. Spurs, with the wing backs of Matt Doherty and Emerson Royal, as well as the constant movement of Son Heung-min, Harry Kane and Dejan Kulusevski, sliced United open on countless occasions.

Wolves too operate in an identical way via Bruno Lage’s 3-4-3 system, so could that force Howe into a tactical re-think to counter the threat of their visitors?

Certainly, that’s what Howe did for the away fixture at Chelsea last month by switching to 5-4-1, although that was largely enforced due to the injuries in the midfield area at the time.

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But nevertheless, it almost worked a treat as United went within minutes of claiming a deserved point at Stamford Bridge before Kai Havertz struck in the 89th-minute.

That will give Howe confidence that if he does decide to change the formation then the players have the ability to execute it.

Recall Jamaal Lascelles?

Newcastle United captain Jamaal Lascelles. Newcastle United captain Jamaal Lascelles.
Newcastle United captain Jamaal Lascelles.

A potential switch to a back five would undoubtedly see Jamaal Lascelles reinstated into the starting XI, just like he was at Chelsea.

That was the Newcastle captain’s only start since the 3-1 win against Everton on February 8 after being forced to miss the encounter with Aston Villa five days later through illness.

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January signing Burn took his place and along with defensive partner Schar had given Howe no reason to drop either player for Lascelles.

However, both centre backs, naturally after shipping five goals, came under some criticism on Sunday. Schar, despite opening the scoring with a free-kick, saw his performance overshadowed by an error leading up Spurs’ second goal.

Burn, for how brilliant of a signing he has been, was given the absolute runaround by Tottenham - not helped by left-back Matt Target, mind - adding to his lapses of concentration in late defeats at Chelsea and Everton.

Lascelles, who was a 70th-minute substitute in North London, is chomping at the bit to return to the line-up and now might seem like the right time for Howe, regardless of whether it’s back four or five.

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Time for Bruno (again)?

Newcastle United midfielder Bruno Guimaraes didn’t start against Tottenham Hotspur. Newcastle United midfielder Bruno Guimaraes didn’t start against Tottenham Hotspur.
Newcastle United midfielder Bruno Guimaraes didn’t start against Tottenham Hotspur.

Bruno Guimaraes was left out of the starting XI at Tottenham and you can understand Howe’s reasoning behind it.

After playing at altitude with Brazil in Bolivia - where he scored his first-ever goal for his country - and arriving back on Tyneside just two days before the trip to the capital, Howe opted to name him among the substitutes.

But with a full week of training under his belt at the club’s Benton HQ and Joe Willock reportedly a doubt due to a knee injury, is there any reason not to start the £35million January signing?

Newcastle fans are desperate to see the 24-year-old handed his full St James’ Park debut with his three previous starts all coming on the road. Certainly, he’s shown bags of class during that period, not least his backheel winner at Southampton and his crazy composure in possession.

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Persist with Allan Saint-Maximin?

Newcastle United winger Allan Saint-Maximin.Newcastle United winger Allan Saint-Maximin.
Newcastle United winger Allan Saint-Maximin.

Allan Saint-Maximin has remained high on the agenda this week after a certain newspaper report sparked a debate over his future.

The truth is, the Frenchman hasn’t been anyway near his marvelous best in recent months but that isn’t necessarily all his fault. Let’s remember he’s missed a lot of minutes because of his calf injury and illness.

During the two-week international break, Saint-Maximin worked hard on his fitness, vowing to prove the emerging critics wrong. And the willingness to do so was there against Spurs. There’s no denying it was a better display, despite him proving somewhat ineffective.

There is still some work to do to answer the questions being asked of him, mostly does he fit into Howe’s current system built on shape, defensive rigidity and hard work?

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It seems unfair, especially based on the many edge-of-the-seat moments the 25-year-old has delivered during his nearly three years at St James’ Park, but they’re questions he can easily answer by bringing back the magic ASAP.

What about Dwight Gayle?

Newcastle United striker Dwight Gayle.Newcastle United striker Dwight Gayle.
Newcastle United striker Dwight Gayle.

If Dwight Gayle - as revealed by Lascelles - is top of the training charts, then shouldn’t that warrant a place in the starting XI, or at the very least more minutes on the pitch?

In total, Gayle has played just 27 minutes of Premier League football this season, only eight of which have come under Howe’s management.

Chris Wood has played a lot of football of late for club & country and was withdrawn against Tottenham on 70 minutes to “keep him in a good physical position”.

For all the good Wood has contributed to the team since his £25m arrival from Burnley in January, his goal record stands at one in 11 appearances.

Would it hurt to hand Gayle a reasonable run out?

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