The orthodox, the unlikely and the 'identity' abandoning options available to Newcastle United in the absence of trio of forward talents
Newcastle United head coach Steve Bruce is facing up to what could prove to be the most challenging weeks of his managerial career.
If replacing Callum Wilson was tough enough – United have been without their 10-goal frontman for three games now – facing up to at least three more games, could be more, without Miguel Almiron and Allan Saint-Maximin as well is the nightmare scenario no one wished for with the Magpies in the midst of a relegation battle.
But who could replace the talismanic trio for United’s run of games against West Brom, Aston Villa and Brighton? Some one has to, here’s three routes assessed, assuming Graeme Jones sticks with his reformed formation and system of 4-3-3.
Gayle – Fraser – Joelinton
Dwight Gayle off the right you say? Well, it might have to be one that is revisited.
Ryan Fraser represents the most obvious replacement for Almiron, his pace is similar, he’s not quite as busy but quality of delivery is right up there, if not better than the Paraguayan.
And Joelinton offers size no other does, giving United an out-ball or option to hit, if needed.
Murphy – Fraser – Joelinton
This, to me, is the one that makes the most sense.
I’d always choose Gayle over Joelinton as a striker, but the former Crystal Palace man did himself no favours against Chelsea in this system. He looked like a fish out of water over on the right.
And for that reason, I think the Brazilian, as toothless as he is, will be a more likely and better suited selection to play off the wing.
Jacob Murphy put a goal on a plate for Joelinton in a stumbling, but successful dribble, in only a manner the ex-Norwich City man can. He can be a threat, even if he drifts out of games for too prolonged a spell.
Fraser – Anderson – Joelinton
A left-field suggestion maybe, but anyone who has seen Elliot Anderson will play, will probably also agree that he’s the only true, fit No10 on Newcastle’s books at the moment.
With Fraser and Joelinton operating as the split strikers, Anderson would be free to roam and drop into pockets like only someone who knows the role perfectly can.
It is one worth considering for Jones and Bruce, but for the time being I’d imagine they may favour experience over youth.
Gayle – Fraser – Murphy
Yes, Gayle off the right again. But using the only real source of goals left in the squad has to be on the table with United so desperately in need of points.
Fraser through the middle is the obvious choice, understandably, and maybe Murphy off the left, where he was used for a brief period on Saturday could be what Jones and Bruce see as a more applicable inverted replacement for ASM.
Murphy – Gayle – Joelinton
The least likely of all the option, given that Fraser is most likely a shoe in for selection.
It would also require Gayle to drop between the lines more than he has ever done in his career.
I want to see Gayle through the middle, but is it worth abandoning a style of play and identity for, especially when we’ve cried out for it for so long? Only time will tell.