What next in the false nine, Dwight Gayle 'winger' experiment? – Liam Kennedy's Newcastle United analysis
A point gained in the end, but ultimately two more lost on the shortening road to potential Premier League survival for Newcastle United.
Here our writer Liam Kennedy takes a look at the key talking points from the Aston Villa draw last night.
False nine confusion and the Dwight Gayle experiment
Ryan Fraser, with Joelinton, are probably the most qualified players to fill in the false nine role left open by Miguel Almiron. And for that reason, I was not against the Scotland international playing the position from the start.
But, what was not legislated for, was how isolated out wide Gayle became and how ill-suited he was to the left split striker role.
Truth be told, Gayle doesn’t really look like he fits in any of the frontline roles having played in all three at some stage in recent weeks.
I still think he does have some kind of role to play for United between now and the end of the season, however.
Jacob Murphy throws his hat in the ring for Brighton
United were in dire need of some final third quality in the closing stages against Aston Villa and their first arrival off the bench – Murphy – gave them the boost they needed.
He hit the bar and bagged an assist for Jamaal Lascelles’ late leveller.
He is inconsistent, yes, but has a delivery like few others out there. I think Gayle might find himself replaced in this side, or Fraser for that matter, both of whom were very poor.
Clark & Lascelles partnership rekindled
This was the partnership that saw Newcastle United promoted – and it’s probably the pairing who have the best understanding of each other in United’s central duos.
Ciaran Clark was outstanding against his former club, but for the own goal and Lascelles not only bagged another potentially crucial goal, he also put in another solid show to add to his excellent performances in the two games previous.
Can Joelinton really be United’s hero?
The big Brazilian has come in for some criticism from this writer recently but I have to eat my words a little on this one – Joelinton was decent against Aston Villa.
He caused problems all day for Tyrone Mings with his physicality and running in behind. The only issue with his performance was his absolutely awful decision-making in the opposition box.
He needs to be more selfish, more often. And maybe, as Bruce says, he might just make himself an unlikely, end-of-season hero for the relegation-threatened Magpies. I wouldn’t advise anyone holds their breath, mind.
A tale of two halves for Willock and Hayden
The Arsenal schooled duo of Joe Willock and Isaac Hayden were well off the pace in the opening 45. But at half-time the pair seemed to get a rocket up their backsides – and in the second half they seemed intent on driving United forward, with loan man Willock involved in a lot of the decent stuff the Magpies played and created.
He is young and inexperienced, and with that comes a level of inconsistency and tendency to drift in and out of games in patches.
But, I am sure, with a focal point to play off further forward, Willock will have one or two crucial contributions between now and the end of May.