The 2019/2020 season has been a bit of a strange one for Newcastle United. It started off with mass negativity after Steve Bruce was picked to replace Rafael Benitez as fans were left fuming with the appointment.
After just three wins in 11 games across all competitions at the start, supporters seemed to be right. But the former Manchester United captain has since turned around their form and they’re sat well above the relegation zone. With that in mind, what would the Geordies’ starting XI look like for the 2020/2021 campaign?
Well, Martin Dubravka has been a rock for the St James’ Park outfit and has made the most saves in the top-flight this season. The side have been linked with Manchester United’s Phil Jones, who has an abundance of experience in the Champions League and would be an astute addition. He would feature alongside Ciaran Clark, who according to WhoScored, is the team’s best defender statistically this campaign.
Given the lack of solidity in defence, a five across midfield would be the smart option as it would reduce the space opposition teams have in the middle of the park.
Nabil Bentaleb was signed on a loan deal in the winter window and has the second-highest pass accuracy after playing three Premier League games. Making his move permanent and the player a regular fixture in the side would be smart from Bruce. Alongside him could be Morgan Sanson, who has been linked with a move and has contributed to nine league goals for Marseille despite being a central midfielder, adding more attacking threat.
The above means that there is no room for Jonjo Shelvey, though.
On the wings, you really can’t look past Matt Richie, whose hard work and endeavour is a massive boost for the north-east club. He averages 1.5 tackles and 1.8 fouls per league game, showing his persistence in thwarting opposition attacks. On the other flank would be Allan Saint-Maximin, who has taken the top-flight by storm with his unpredictability. As of the 16th of March, the Frenchman had completed the fourth-most take-ons in the division, settling into life in England pretty well.
In between the two would have to be Miguel Almiron, whose energy (something highlighted by The Athletic) really would help to close down the ball especially alongside the likes of Richie and Saint-Maximin. Upfront would have to be Joelinton, who despite a slow start to life in the league, wins a staggering 5.2 aerial duels per game, making him the perfect target man for the three behind him to play off.
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