Newcastle face Huddersfield on Saturday in what is a must-win for the Magpies; their performance standards have increased significantly in recent weeks but the results have unfortunately not – a victory over Manchester City aside.
Rafa Benitez could hand club-record signing Miguel Almiron his home debut against the Terries but the Spaniard should consider making one significant change to ensure the midfielder hits the ground running.
Rafa seems to have struck Premier League survival gold with his 5-4-1 formation which has proved difficult for teams to beat. Even champions City struggled to break down the Magpies, with Pep Guardiola heaping praise on holding midfielders Sean Longstaff and Isaac Hayden, who have been revelations in 2019.
The St James’ Park outfit have come through a tough run of fixtures relatively unscathed, although the draw to Wolves in which Willy Boly scored a controversial, last gasp equaliser will have hurt – against Jan Siewert’s side, they now have the opportunity to show what they’ve learned in what should be a considerably easier game.
Rafa must take a risk, though, by switching up his winning formula for Almiron’s sake.
The downside to Rafa’s 5-4-1 are that there is little support for striker Salomon Rondon and a distinct lack of creation in the midfield, which is set up with defence prioritised over attack.
Meanwhile Almiron, who signed from Atlanta in January and is expected to make his debut on Saturday, thrives in the number 10 role and while he can play out wide, should absolutely be deployed where he is most effective.
Perhaps a 5-3-2 is the way forward. Matt Ritchie, who has been relieved of left-wing-back duties by the arrival of Antonio Barreca, lacks the pace to be a threat on the counter attack but wears his heart on his sleeve – the Scotsman would make a solid number 8 and what he lacks in defensive quality would be made up for by Longstaff and Hayden.
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Almiron should play as a supporting forward behind Rondon – the lightning to the Venezuelan’s thunder. If Rafa wants to get the best out of the 25-year-old speedster, he should consider switching things around. Who better than Huddersfield to try out something slightly different against?