The tough call, the obvious one & the energy switch - THREE key Newcastle United decisions

Defeat on the opening weekend of the Premier League has left many questioning Steve Bruce’s Newcastle United selections against West Ham United. Here Liam Kennedy takes a look at three key areas the head coach must address with a trip to Villa Park on the horizon.
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The obvious one - injecting legs into the midfield engine room

If there is an obvious decision for Bruce to make ahead of the visit to Aston Villa, it probably involves bringing Joe Willock into the side.

There are pros and cons to this.

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On the plus side, who wouldn’t want to bring a £25million signing straight in? It’s also hard to argue that he won’t improve the XI.

However, he did get little to no minutes under his belt this summer while with Arsenal - so will his fitness be quite where it should be? The flip side is that Jonjo Shelvey and Allan Saint-Maximin also got less than anticipated minutes in pre-season. Both were still handed Premier League starts on Sunday.

Isaac Hayden, in all probability, was only keeping that right side ‘No.8’ role warm for Willock.

The youth over experience one - swapping competitive energy for up & down running

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When thrown back into the side, with his NUFC career looking like it was all but over, Matt Ritchie brought an incredible intensity to the XI.

His competitive energy, and wicked left foot deliveries, as well as his experience, were vital in helping United pull away from relegation trouble and end the campaign in relative mid-table comfort.

Defending though, is not one of his strong suits - and that inadequacy was laid bare on Sunday against West Ham, as it was at times last season, too.

Should the more youthful, energetic and metronomic Jamal Lewis get the nod this weekend? The former Norwich City man will never have a better opportunity to establish himself in this starting side. The position is there for the taking.

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The tough, defensive one - the quality over suitability question

Many a jaw dropped in the terraces on Sunday when the news that ‘shoe in’ Federico Fernandez was to be flanked by Emil Krafth and Ciaran Clark.

There was method in the madness, even if it proved a flawed idea in the end.

Krafth is by trade a right-sided player and his mobility in that department, on paper, makes him a perfect fit in the team.

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Clark, too, is left-footed and has, much earlier in his career, had stints on the left of a four. Thing is, he looks so far out of his depth in this role, change must be on Bruce’s mind.

Does Bruce stick with players he thinks fit the system better or switch to a trio who are undoubtedly more talented - adding in skipper Jamaal Lascelles and Fabian Schar? A result on Saturday could live or die by this crucial call.

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