Rafa Benitez kicked off the season with his usual formation.
Yedlin, Lascelles, Clark and Dummett the back line, in a the Spaniard’s usual 4-4-1-1, or 4-2-3-1, or however you see it in practice.
At Cardiff it was still the same formation but with Manquillo in for the injured Yedlin at right-back.
The Chelsea game saw a major change though, with a five at the back, Yedlin and Dummett with three centre-backs (Fernandez, Clark and Schar) in between them.
Away at Man City, the same story, a back five but Lascelles now fit enough to come in for Schar.
In between those last two Premier League games, we also saw three centre-backs on the pitch against Forest in the League Cup. However, that was more to do with having such a threadbare squad, as Rafa was forced to use Ciaran Clark as a makeshift left–back to give Dummett a night off.
I don’t love the idea of five at the back but I can understand using it at Man City, plus to a lesser extent against Chelsea, but certainly not this Saturday against Arsenal.
The Gunners are no Manchester City, that’s for sure, and with eight goals conceded in four games already, including two at Cardiff, Newcastle have to get on the front foot.
No doubt those in favour of the system would claim it can also mean three at the back – but that is hardly the case with Newcastle.
Paul Dummett is a competent defender but absolutely shocking going forward. If he is to be used in a five/three man defence then for me it has to be as one of the three centre-backs, which actually looks his best position anyway.
When using the five/three at the back, Newcastle always simply end up playing with five defenders and with no top quality attacking midfielders or strikers, it then means we have next to no attacking threat.
Against Arsenal, we need to see a back four and a midfield pushing further up the pitch to try and put pressure on an Arsenal side who don’t look great in defence.
In April, Newcastle may not have had more possession but they did do well in pressurising the Gunners and getting good numbers forward when catching Arsenal in possession in dangerous situations.
I think Newcastle can definitely win on Saturday if things go our way but I have a feeling it can only happen if a team/formation is put out that will score two or more goals, rather than trying to do it via a clean sheet against some very decent attacking options that Arsenal do have.