Newcastle United will be looking to make it four wins from four as they take on West Ham United in the Premier League on Saturday.
The Magpies have picked up maximum points from their last three games as they beat Leeds United, Everton and Aston Villa. These results have now moved the club out of the relegation zone and four points clear of 18th-placed Norwich.
One change Eddie Howe could make from their last outing against Steven Gerrard’s side is ruthlessly axing Joe Willock in favour of Bruno Guimaraes because of the physical edge the Brazilian could bring.
In the Premier League this season, Willock has lost 124 of his individual duels – including 74% of his aerial battles in midfield. His lack of physical strength was on display last week in the win over Aston Villa as he lost 10 of his 17 duels on the pitch, whilst he was also dribbled past three times – as per SofaScore.
It is worth saying that the £80k-per-week lightweight also completed 100% (11/11) of his attempted passes and created one chance, although he also failed in 75% (3/4) of his attempted dribbles. This gave him a SofaScore rating of 6.7 – the joint-lowest in the team on the day.
Whilst one performance does not define a player and he was enjoying an upturn in form prior to that match, this upcoming clash with West Ham may not be best suited to his skillset. The statistics suggest that will be bullied by David Moyes’ midfield battlers, with Declan Rice having won 138 duels this season and Tomas Soucek having won 161 individual battles.
This shows that both of them excel at winning duels by getting about the midfield and making challenges and that is why Willock could struggle in this game as he has been a lightweight in his duels. He could be bullied by the West Ham duo and that could cost the Magpies if it allows the Hammers to dominate the match.
Guimaraes, meanwhile, won 158 contests in 20 Ligue 1 matches for Lyon in the first half of the season – winning 58% of his duels overall. This suggests that he is physically superior to Willock and could, therefore, be a better option for Howe in this particular match where physicality could hold the key to winning the game in the middle of the park.