This weekend’s game against Tottenham is massive. Even coming off a strong win against Liverpool, I think McClaren really needs another strong outing to keep things in order. Spurs are no pushover though and if I’m being honest, it’s difficult to see Newcastle storming into White Hart Lane and coming away with three points.
A draw is something I would consider a big success here. And THAT result isn’t out of the question; Spurs have secured the most draws in the league this year with eight.
So how do we go about getting that point? The answer is probably Gini Wijnaldum, but unfortunately he can’t save the Magpies every game (or can he???). McClaren will surely be tempted to stick with the same starting squad who pulled out the win against Liverpool. I don’t have much dispute with that but I would make one change.
I just do not think that Papiss Cisse is the right fit for this team. And in particular, this game. He has definitely been playing some good football in recent games and on his day he is the best finisher we have. And to my surprise, he has not been terrible as a target man recently.
But I just have a feeling that his recent play is an anomaly because Papiss Cisse is usually so adept at spoiling our build up play.
His passing isn’t precise, his ball control isn’t good, and he is never going to be the guy that uses his vision to pick out well positioned teammates. He can get into a good position and can score goals. That’s it. Beyond that there isn’t much to him and I think we need a lot more than that right now.
And when Cisse does give the ball away, it leaves us very vulnerable on the counter. We have enough defensive issues as is; we can’t afford to give a team like Tottenham extra chances on the break.
A player like Papiss Cisse works well in the right set-up, but I don’t think that’s present here. I think this team needs to focus more on quality possession and creating a higher quantity of scoring opportunities, rather than just putting away the ones we get. I love using Cisse off the bench late in games, but not as a starter.
I would argue for taking Cisse out and putting Ayoze back in. It’s an easy decision for me. Throughout this season, if you would have asked me to name two players that I thought were undroppable, I would have absolutely told you Ayo and Gini. There is no reason the young Spaniard should be on the bench. He always provides energy and puts himself in dangerous positions.
Some might say to drop de Jong instead of Cisse. I would disagree. I’m a big fan of the number 10, and while he didn’t exactly light up the field against Liverpool, he was an extremely steady and poised presence.
Newcastle could really use someone to consistently put in performances like that, and maybe with a steady string of starts de Jong could start to find a scoring streak. I think he deserves a run of four or five starts to really see what he’s made of.
With both de Jong and Ayoze in the squad, we should have a very intelligent, very technically savvy line-up that can keep the ball and create chances. Both of them, combined with Gini, are decent finishers as well, ideally creating a well-balanced team.
Now, the interesting dilemma here is whether to play Ayo as the striker and de Jong as the 10, or vice-versa. I really want to see both options in action. We’ve seen Ayo as the striker before, but never with a line-up that surrounds him with talent like this one would. And de Jong has experience as a number 9 at Ajax.
To start, I would keep de Jong at the 10 and see how it goes. But at some point I would really like to see de Jong operate further up the field as an out and out striker.
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