It is Newcastle v Birmingham in 24 hours time and the visitors have admitted they make changes to their formation and/or tactics for the challenge the Magpies will present.
Newcastle fans have become used to away teams coming to St James Park and only playing the one striker, sometimes none(!), as they look to keep the Championship’s top scorers at bay.
Newcastle usually dominate possession and more often or not the ultra negative tactics fail, although Blackburn managed to win in the last home game, despite defending for most of the game with Danny Graham an isolated figure up front.
Birmingham have been playing with two up front recently, Lukas Jutkiewicz and Clayton Donaldson, though Manager Gary Rowett thinks he might have to change that against the Magpies.
The problem for him is that he doesn’t see anybody in his team who can play the role of being a natural number 10 behind the main striker.
Rafa Benitez has said that he believes it is essential to have somebody in this number 10 role so as to control possession, though both Perez and Diame have failed to impress so far in that role. With hints in recent days that Rafa will look to bring somebody else in this January to fix that.
Rowett admits that his formation with two up front hasn’t been perfect but that will results going well, why would you change it?
Birmingham were unbeaten since 21 October until Barnsley came to St.Andrew’s and won 3-0 last weekend, which could be the push that the visiting manager needs to change things.
Hopefully though Birmingham come to Newcastle with the intention of not just sitting back, which should hopefully enable another 50,000+ crowd to see a better more open match and more importantly, gaps in the opposition to exploit and a home win!
Gary Rowett speaking to the Birmingham Mail:
“You always look at the games you have had recently and the results.
“To a certain degree the way we’ve played and the results meant it was almost like – OK, I know there are some things we’d like to do better, but we’re winning games and not losing games, so let’s keep going.
“There are not many clubs that would massively change the way they play when they’re winning games and in a really handy position in the league.
“But we’ve been aware that probably over the last four or five games, by playing two up front sometimes that leaves spaces in midfield and sometimes encourages the two midfielders to play a bit higher and offer the back four less cover.
“Sometimes when you’re on the ball you’ve got less passing options because your lines are perhaps a little bit flatter. So, there are lots of different areas that 4-4-2 can cause you a problem, particularly with the two strikers we’ve got playing it.
“We haven’t got a natural number 10 playing as a striker that can drop into those spaces.
“ It’s something we’ve looked at and something when you’re playing a very good team technically and tactically away from home then what you don’t want is lots of space on the pitch.
“So, whichever way we do it, we’ll have to make sure we limit space in certain areas.
“But also that we have some really good attacking options, because you can’t go somewhere like Newcastle and defend for vast periods of the game and expect to come away with a result.”