Fans had been crying out for a more attacking formation with two up front, but Steve McClaren said after the Chelsea game that he couldn’t play 4-4-2 without Aleksandar Mitrovic.
The Head Coach claims that this was the kind of formation he played against Arsenal until the Mitrovic sending off, or at least a 4-4-1-1, although I have to say that yesterday against Chelsea looked a world away from that opening 15 minutes against the Gunners.
That Arsenal match saw Ayoze Perez on the bench, so not really sure who was playing just behind Mitrovic that day, whether it was Florian Thauvin or whoever.
Newcastle hardly got out of their half before the red card and the Serbian striker was left totally isolated without any support in his brief appearance that day against Arsenal.
Steve McClaren says that the number nine is the most important on the pitch but he can’t just stand and score goals, his centre-forward has to work, hold the ball up and be a threat as well.
It is hard not to see this as also a pointed reference to the player in our squad who actually has number nine on his back, Papiss Cisse, who does none of those things McClaren lists.
The Mitrovic/Perez partnership definitely looks like it has legs after that Chelsea performance, though I must admit I did fear for Ayoze Perez a couple of times when Newcastle United’s number 45 was congratulating him with a bear hug and swinging him around!
Playing two up front also seemed to bring the likes of Wijnaldum to life, easily having his best match since the opening day, long may it continue.
Steve McClaren talking to NUFC TV:
“We kind of…it is strange, but we have been looking at that (playing 4-4-2), we have missed Mitrovic for three games, Papiss has been injured and you know we need that focal point.
“You need to get the balance and it was strange, you looked at the Arsenal game and we went 4-4-1-1, or 4-4-1 with 10 men, and it was really similar to what we did today.
“We said if we do that we have a target up front, who can hold the ball up, we can improve and we did.”
Help Ayoze Perez?:
“It has to, Ayoze up there on his own – we wouldn’t have kept the ball, but Mitro kept the ball for us.
“It is important for the way we want to play, number nine is probably the most important person on the pitch. He has to score but he has to also be a team player.
“That is the number nine that we are looking for, not just stand and score, but he has to work, he has to be a threat, he has to hold the ball up and bring the team into play – Mitro did that well. Ayoze profited from that.”