Southampton vs Newcastle United: Magpies can get more goals with new-look formation 
ROCHDALE, ENGLAND - JANUARY 04: Miguel Almiron of Newcastle United celebrates with teammate Joelinton after scoring his team's first goal during the FA Cup Third Round match between Rochdale AFC and Newcastle United at Spotland Stadium on January 04, 2020 in Rochdale, England. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

It has been a decent season for Newcastle United so far by and large.

Their accumulation of points pre-Christmas propelled them up to ninth in the Premier League table, but a lack of goal scoring prowess has always been a threat to them. 

Steve Bruce's desire was never really to sustain a long-term plan of deploying five defenders, but it has done United no harm when they needed defensive stability. 

But ultimately when the goals did dry up, the points began to as well. 

Freeing up an extra body in attack has eased the pressure momentarily on Bruce, a better performance against Burnley was followed up by an excellent attacking display in the win over West Bromwich Albion.

Encouraging signs 

It is too early to tell whether or not a new formation of 4-2-3-1 carries any long-term legs but the signs seem positive for now, given the players United have to boast in attack. 

It is easy to forget that Joelinton is and always has been a natural wide player, a position that he made his own in the Bundesliga with Hoffenheim

Yes he was still asked to lead the line at the Hawthorns on Tuesday, but this formation allows his team-mates to get closer with possession and that is vital. 

Crowding midfield in the past has left the Brazilian isolated, and even if you question his technical ability it is difficult to lay complete blame when he was played in a totally foreign role. 

Allowing for Miguel Almiron to roam in his number ten with men either side of him should be a positive also and we certainly got glimpses of his ability there in midweek. 

Changes should be relished 

The concern for United has been their stalling progress of late.

When the season began there were good and signs and there were bad - notably losing away at Norwich City but then winning at Tottenham Hotspur.

But wedged in between those results were uninspiring stalemates to the likes of Brighton & Hove Albion and Watford.

The concern lingering after the draws to the goalless draws to Norwich, Oxford United and Burnley was that United were slipping back to those early season days where they looked a bit void of ideas.  

Allowing a change of system to kick on and turn those draws into victories should be embraced by United's squad and as Bruce eluded to in last week's press conference, top teams still tweak their systems frequently. 

The chiefs at St James' Park have spent lots of money on their attacking options since the turn of last year, and adjusting a system to suit them makes sense.

Of course, it is vital it doesn't jeopardise their defensive structure, but surely it is about getting the balance right of the whole team on the pitch to sustain any sort of success. 

It will, of course, squeeze even more competition to United's centre back options but the long-term losses of Ciaran Clark and Paul Dummett to injury means there will still be two places out of four players. 

Picking up points in the Premier League has always been about results and whilst playing well doesn't necessarily equal points, scoring goals definitely does. 

This seems to be the next phase in what has been an up-and-down season for the club, and what happens next is anybody's guess. 

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