Is there a place for latest Newcastle United signing in Steve Bruce’s team?
Joelinton was belatedly the first Newcastle United signing of the summer.
The striker arriving on 22 July and then on the eve of the final pre-season friendly, we saw Jetro Willems arrive on loan, followed minutes later on Friday night by Allan Saint-Maximin (ASM).
Newcastle fans relieved to see action at last, as a squad lacking depth had seen half a dozen of the first team squad exit in the summer, for one reason or another.
Joelinton is self-explanatory.
Despite playing on the right of a forward trio for Hoffenheim last season, the Brazilian stated on his arrival that he was most definitely a number nine. A replacement for Salomon Rondon.
As for Jetro Willems, Newcastle have been desperate for more competition at left-back for what seems like forever, so the Dutch international who was struggling to get a game with Eintract Frankfurt was obvious as well. Competition for Paul Dummett at left-back and/or left wing-back, as he enjoys getting forward more than the Geordie Welsh international.
So what about 22 year old Allan Saint-Maximin?
If Rafa Benitez was still in the job, we would automatically see him as a like for like replacement for Ayoze Perez, playing on the right of an attacking trio, he and Miguel Almiron playing a little deeper than Joelinton.
Rafa having a settled system last season with the three/five in defence playing with wing-backs, with then two central midfielders and then two in support of the main striker.
For Steve Bruce, the pre-season friendlies have shown that he also sees that playing with the three centre-backs is also the way to go. After all, it is the position where we have most strength in depth, with Lascelles, Clark, Fernandez, Schar, Lejeune and even Dummett, all comfortable in that formation.
However, whereas Rafa played with the two central midfielders, the new Head Coach has gone with three central midfielders. The likes of Hayden and Sean Longstaff in there with Jonjo Shelvey given the free role he loves to knock the ball about and not have so much of a defensive expectation on him.
These three central midfielders having a front two ahead of them, Almiron playing behind and around Joelinton, once the pair were available these last three friendlies.
So where does this leave Allan Saint-Maximin?
Difficult to tell really, if you are talking about him automatically having a place in the starting eleven.
Central midfield is the next strongest area after the middle of defence and difficult to justify leaving out any of Hayden, Sean Longstaff and Shelvey.
From everything I have seen and heard, Allan Saint-Maximin isn’t a wing-back, so that option isn’t really there either.
Steve Bruce appeared to confirm this as well when referring to Saint-Maximin as one of his five strikers, along with Almiron, Joelinton, Muto and Gayle.
When changes were made on Saturday, Saint-Maximin and Muto replaced Almiron and Joelinton in a double substitution.
Things may quickly change as the season progresses but I think that one of our two biggish money signings will at least initially be used as an impact sub. Unless of course Steve Bruce now changes his formation.
A big downside of leaving signings so late is that the Head Coach hasn’t really had any proper chance to experiment with various formations in friendlies, plus of course limited time in training as well, with today being Willems and ASM’s first session with the rest of the squad.
On the bright side, at least on Sunday Newcastle should have a great impact sub option in the shape of the now former Nice winger.
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