Newcastle appointing Steve Bruce as Rafa Benitez’s replacement was seen by many as an underwhelming selection, but United performing well against West Ham United at the weekend has fans discussing if next season could see the Magpies play an interesting blend of football.
The topic of how Bruce will set United up to play next season was sparked by u/OffensiveOcelot on Reddit, when they pondered if the use of a 3-5-2 against the Hammers was a sign of the former Sheffield Wednesday head coach looking to get runners in from deep for fast, flowing, attacking football, rather than to be more defensively solid.
Benitez often favoured a five-man defence last season with a core backline consisting of DeAndre Yedlin, Jamaal Lascelles, Fabian Schar and Matt Ritchie, with one of Paul Dummett, Florian Lejeune or Federico Fernandez occupying the other centre-half slot.
In total, the Spaniard set the Magpies out to play in a 5-4-1 on 22 occasions in the Premier League, compared to eleven times with a 4-4-1-1, three with a 3-5-1-1 and once respectively with a 3-4-3 or a 5-3-2.
However, the use of a 5-4-1 with Ayoze Perez on one wing and Christian Atsu, Miguel Almiron or Kenedy on the other often left United weak in the centre, as a two-man pair could not adequately protect the centre-halves.
That is why u/OffensiveOcelot has suggested a three-man core, with Almiron potentially moving up the field to partner rumoured signing Joelinton, would better serve Newcastle next season, as a three-man central line will have the ability to shift up and down the field, covering the defence and supporting the attack when needed.
Taking away the wide responsibilities from whoever Bruce entrusts to replace Perez will also allow the likes of DeAndre Yedlin and Matt Ritchie to continue displaying the offensive sides to their game, which is where both thrive.
When we used a three-man backline under Benitez last season, we won twice, drew once and lost once, while scoring six goals but conceding five. Whereas a five-man defence returned eight wins, five draws, and ten defeats, scoring 29 and conceding 29.
The worst of our records was set with a four-man defence, with our results when starting in a 4-4-1-1 returning two wins in eleven games, and a negative-seven goal difference after six defeats and three draws.
Here’s what these Newcastle fans had to say when u/OffensiveOcelot suggested sticking with a 3-5-2 or close variation…