All things considered, it’s been a difficult start to the season for Rafa Benitez and Newcastle. The Magpies have just one point from four Premier League games so far this term and were knocked out of the Carabao Cup by Championship side Nottingham Forest last week.
There have also been rumours of unrest during training sessions, with the Daily Mail reporting that captain Jamaal Lascelles and winger Matt Ritchie had to be separated by fellow players during a session and in the dressing room after Lascelles had expressed his disappointment over Benitez’s tactics for the Chelsea game.
It was these tactics that will have also irked Newcastle fans after they supported the Spanish boss so vocally during pre-season in his public battle with owner Mike Ashley. Benitez went with one up front, handing Salomon Rondon his first start, and replaced his usual number 10 with an extra central defender.
The Magpies lost 2-1 and had just 19 per cent possession at St. James’ Park, with Rondon’s lonely role posing the question of just who Benitez should be starting as either a pair or lone striker up top. Here at Football FanCast we’ve had a look at the options.
The big Venezuelan joined Newcastle on loan from West Brom this summer, with Dwight Gayle heading the other way in a temporary swap deal. His first appearance came from the bench against Spurs on the first day of the season where he struck the crossbar late on.
The 28-year-old was then deployed from the start by Benitez as a target man against Chelsea and Manchester City, but he failed to hold the ball up and bring others into the games, despite seemingly being the best fit for the Spaniard’s system.
Rondon netted his first goal in the Carabao Cup against Forest but the Chelsea loss seemed to prove that he will need a strike partner to work with in the future.
It’s unlikely that Benitez will ever start Joselu up front with Rondon, but the 28-year-old has certainly made his case to start ahead of the new signing recently.
After netting just four goals in 30 Premier League appearances last season, the former Spain U21 international now has two already in this campaign, both of which were headers that came against members of the top six.
This season will be Perez’s fifth in the North East and the Spaniard will be hoping that he is deployed in his favoured position just off a recognised striker. When Rondon plays though, it seems as though Perez has almost always been shifted out onto the left-hand side of the midfield.
During the first two games of the season against Spurs and Cardiff though, Perez was given the nod by Benitez to start alongside his compatriot Joselu and this could well be the Magpies’ best current combination based on their form at the beginning of this campaign.
Japanese international Muto joined the club from Mainz this summer in one of the rare moments that Ashley allowed Benitez to spend money. His goalscoring record in the Bundesliga was certainly impressive, although like Perez he may be considered too lightweight to play as a lone striker by Benitez.
The 26-year-old is yet to score for his new side and may have to settle for substitute appearances alongside Rondon if the Spanish duo of Perez and Joselu keep up their form.
So, Newcastle fans, who would you like to see upfront against Arsenal after the international break? Let us know by voting in our poll below.