With Newcastle United rarely changing the system now head coach Steve Bruce has settled on his 4-4-2 and 5-3-2 formations depending who the particular opponent is that week. The Magpies in three-quarters of games this season have opted for two in the centre of midfield.
Does a four in midfield work?
The four midfield has had mixed results with four wins, three draws, and five losses this season. Culminating in fifteen points out of the North-east clubs nineteen points this season. The other four coming using a 5-3-2 formation with Miguel Almiron and Ryan Fraser playing either side of Jeff Hendrick. You will not be surprised that the 5-3-2 is not a system many fans think should be played and Bruce agrees having used it three times this season. The last time being the trip to Southampton. A 2-0 loss to the high flying Saints might not look bad, but when you look at the attacking output from the three games, it is not a shock Bruce ditched it.
So it works, but who should play there?
An intriguing question with two answers, emotional and analytical from the emotional side, it is obvious Issac Hayden has to start.
Then depending on who the opposition is that week, you can use different combinations. For example, when you need to press a side pick, Matty Longstaff, the youngster's pace and pressing ability has been second to none since he first entered the Newcastle first team last season. His average distance covered is twelve kilometres over 90 minutes. The homegrown talent runs his heart out for the shirt and its brilliant to see, yes his overexcitement sometimes causes him to lose the ball in certain situations, Longstaff is still young mistakes happen.
When teams sit back, and Newcastle wants to attack on the front foot (it does not happen and has happened only twice this season but the option is there.) Use Jonjo Shelvey his passing ability is second to none in the Newcastle squad. It has always been noted if Shelvey isn't up for the game then we see a league two level footballer, in the rarity, he is up for the game, the trickle of talent he has left shines.
Finally for physical games use Sean Longstaff, preferably with the instruction of clearing every ball, the older Longstaff's physicality is top-notch and makes for an excellent box to box midfielder with Hayden breaking up play. Longstaff's height and overall gangliness works when sitting back works.
Who should not play in there?
Two answers very plainly, Jeff Hendrick and Miguel Almiron.
In Hendrick's case, despite his signing picture looking photoshopped. He is useless in this system. He has lost possession of the football when playing in the centre of midfield two thirds more than he has won possession.
Okay if Hendrick's job is not to keep the ball and pass it along, then is it a break up of play, well his tackle success rate is fifty-four per cent. Only Shelvey has a lower percentage. A third option is to run, which is the only thing Hendrick does well, covering ground always has a trait of the Ireland international. There are two reasons Burnley did not want to renew his contract money and ability. Hendrick should start in a Newcastle United shirt.
Miguel Almiron is not a centre midfielder and should never be used there. 'Miggy' works hard, but he is a defensive liability, the Paraguayan is a central attacking midfielder or winger. These two positions are different to centre midfield and come with hugely different jobs.
The trouble of Newcastle United's central midfield problem has been lingering for a while at the club. Other areas have been addressed before this, but to truly solve the issue The Magpies need to bring in someone.