Should Newcastle United recall Allan Saint-Maximin & Callum Wilson for West Ham? Our writers Liam Kennedy & Jordan Cronin tackle the key NUFC issues

Steve Bruce has a selection and system dilemma on his hands as Newcastle United prepare to face Champions-League chasing West Ham at St James’ Park.

Tuesday, 13th April 2021, 12:30 pm
Federico Fernandez of Newcastle is congratulated by Manager Steve Bruce after the Premier League match between Burnley and Newcastle United at Turf Moor on April 11, 2021 in Burnley, England.
Federico Fernandez of Newcastle is congratulated by Manager Steve Bruce after the Premier League match between Burnley and Newcastle United at Turf Moor on April 11, 2021 in Burnley, England.

Should Allan Saint-Maximin return, so too Callum Wilson – and what about the system, back to a false nine or stick with the three central defenders and two up top?

Our writers Liam Kennedy and Jordan Cronin tackle the Toon Trending Topics in our midweek NUFC Q&A.

Should Steve Bruce & his coaches stick with 3-5-2/5-3-2 against West Ham or change?

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LK: “This is a really tough one for me. I think something which worked so well against Spurs, did not against Burnley. But looking at the way West Ham play with width and a dynamic forward line, I think the three works. The extra man in the middle of the park is a bonus, too, even if it limits the impact of Miguel Almiron, somewhat. While the three forward players United missed so much are back and fit, I’d be cautious of reverting back to the narrow 4-3-3 simply because of the opposition.”

JC: “It’s a difficult one. Until Saint-Maximin’s introduction at Burnley, the system was a complete waste of time but against Tottenham, it proved it can be effective. Do West Ham pose a similar threat to Spurs? I’d argue yes but no two games are the same. I like the split striker system but only when Almiron, Wilson and ASM are fully fit and I don’t think the latter two are just yet. I’m still very sceptical about the 3-5-2/5-3-2 formation but without the key frontmen, it probably does make sense to stick.”

Would you start Allan Saint-Maximin and/or Callum Wilson this weekend?

LK: “Yes. It is 100% time for Allan Saint-Maximin to return to the United line up and I’d bring him in as one of the two frontmen. Which one is another debate altogether but if Burnley was the yardstick to judge then I thought Joelinton was worse than Dwight Gayle. I have a feeling Callum Wilson will also get the nod, although Bruce has rightly been cautious with his main striker and it would be no surprise if he does give it another week before starting the 10-goal hitman.”

JC: “I agree with Bruce when he says the pair need to be managed carefully because the last thing Newcastle need or want is for one of those to break down ahead of the run-in. Going off the assumption they can produce a similar performance to the one against Spurs, I’d keep both on the bench. In recent weeks, West Ham have lost control of games in the closing stages, if United can hold it together and call upon Wilson or Saint-Maximin or both off the bench, that could prove very handy. That said, it could also be very risky…”

Joe Willock was an unused substitute at Burnley, is he another player who could be recalled?

LK: “This depends on the formation, for me. If Bruce goes back to the 4-3-3 then I think Willock comes back in. Thing is, that switch would probably see someone like Jacob Murphy drop out, which is one I definitely don’t want to see. I’ve been impressed by the Arsenal loanee, though. He is a very good carrier of the ball at pace, pops up in dangerous pockets and has the ability to run beyond and score goals. He is a player I’d be looking to keep, if United stay in the Premier League.”

JC: “Again, before ASM came on at Burnley, Newcastle lacked any real energy, something which Willock quite clearly brings to the team. He’d be in my starting XI every week but if Bruce sticks with 5-3-2/3-5-2, I can’t see him dropping Almiron, Sean Longstaff or, sadly, Jonjo Shelvey, now he’s stand-in captain.”

What do you make of the decision to again drop Matty Longstaff from the United squad?

LK: “I’m fed up with it, if I am honest. The lad could and should have been used as a potentially valuable member of the United squad, instead he’s been treated as an outcast. If his gametime was going to be this limited, he should have been sent out on loan in January. Simple as that. I just hope Elliot Anderson does not suffer the same fate, another young, talented Geordie lad in need of games, if not here then elsewhere.”

JC: “I just think Matty has been completely mismanaged. There’s no way he signed up for this when he penned his new contract last summer. To throw him over the Christmas period against Leicester, Man City, Liverpool and Arsenal - in games he did very well in by the way - only never to play him again is extremely harsh.”

After the weekend results, do you believe United will stay up?

LK: “It really is too early to make any definitive call on this, things can change so quickly in a relegation battle and teams get desperate, but logic tells you Newcastle probably only need another three or four points to stay up, with 35 or 36 often proving to be enough in the top flight.”

JC: “I think Newcastle will stay up but that’s only because I underestimated how poor Fulham are. I’m still very nervous at six points because of the two run-ins. When Newcastle play Man City and Leicester back-to-back, Parker’s side face Burnley and Southampton. The opportunity is still there for Fulham but they’ve only won five games all season. West Brom could be one to consider but I’d argue, like many, that it’s too little, too late.”

Result and scoreline predictions…

LK: “Draw. Although West Ham are so good in attack, if United are not ‘at it’ the game could be out of sight by half-time. 1-1.”

JC: “Defend set-pieces and stop Jesse Lingard. If Newcastle can do that, they have a chance. I’ll go 2-2.”

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