What Jamaal Lascelles & Joe Willock’s absence means for Newcastle United & Steve Bruce’s Watford plans

Newcastle United will be without up to SIX of their first-team starters for the next two rounds of Premier League fixtures - and here’s a look at what damage the latest two drop-outs, Jamaal Lascelles and Joe Willock, will do to Steve Bruce’s Magpies line up.

Newcastle United head coach Steve Bruce this morning confirmed that he will be without Joe Willock and Jamaal Lascelles for this weekend’s trip to Vicarage Road.

Further to that, though, he also revealed that duo, plus Martin Dubravka and Callum Wilson, will also likely miss next week’s trip to Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Sign up to our Newcastle United newsletter

It’s a blow to the United boss, whose side have not won any of their opening six games, five of which have come in the Premier League.

Here’s a look at how Bruce might look to replace both Lascelles and Willock.

How to solve the issue of a Joe Willock-less midfield?

It sounds like United will go for the 4-2-3-1 approach at Vicarage Road, switching from their so far stubbornly retained 5-3-2.

This means United are essentially losing one of their more deeper lying midfielders, as Willock operated from one of the sitting two against Leeds United.

Whatever the position, though, United are definitely losing their main source of ‘legs’ from the middle.

Isaac Hayden is expected, if the change in formation is correct, to play as one of those two and Sean Longstaff, a more advanced operator in the system, will likely drop a little further back.

Kalvin Phillips of Leeds United vies with Allan Saint- Maximim of Newcastle United during the Premier League match between Newcastle United and Leeds United at St. James Park on September 17, 2021 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England.

It would then be expected that Miguel Almiron will revert to No.10 behind Allan Saint-Maximin and one of a trio of players will come in to operate on the right of the attacking trio behind the Frenchman.

Ryan Fraser may well be an early front-runner to come in, but Jacob Murphy can also make a case, while Jeff Hendrick, although left-field, has been used out on the right by Bruce in the last 12 months.

What will Newcastle’s backline look like without Jamaal Lascelles?

This one seems a little easier to fix.

It seemed an inexplicable decision to remove Federico Fernandez from the Magpies’ back three, especially when arguably United’s best defender had done little to warrant being taken out the team.

So, with Ciaran Clark beside him, expect the Argentine to be part of a central pairing as Newcastle switch to a back four - again something hinted at by Bruce in his press conference on Friday morning.

The other candidates for the slot could be Fabian Schar, again a more technically gifted defender than Lascelles, or Hayden could remain there, although, as mentioned above, a switch to midfield seems the more likely option this weekend.

Expect Matt Ritchie to continue as a left-back in the four at the back system.