Drop the axe: This Newcastle 4-3-3 would demolish Southampton in their next league game
COMMENT by Russell Edge
Newcastle United boss Rafael Benitez should chop and change his squad to ensure they have the best chance of beating Southampton in just over a week.
The club have made a bright start on their return to the Premier League thanks to some impressive performances from their stars.
Jamaal Lascelles, Matt Ritchie and Rob Elliot have been some of the stand out performers in ensuring the Magpies have secured vital points, while the rest of the squad have performed admirably alongside them.
While the international break has seen many of the club’s stars jet off to play for their countries, it will have given boss Benitez the chance to decide on who will be lining up against Southampton a week on Sunday.
As a result, he should be making a host of changes after the club’s 1-1 draw against Liverpool last time out, choosing a line up who could blow the opposition away.
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The axe should fall on Ayoze Perez, Joselu, Javier Manquillo and Ciaran Clark with Benitez looking for the best players to best hurt the Saints, as well as to counter the threat the home side will pose.
The Magpies should line up in a 4-3-3 formation, with Isaac Hayden, Dwight Gayle, Chancel Mbemba and Florian Lejeune taking their place.
With Rob Elli6o keeping his place between the sticks after a mightily impressive start to the season, summer signing Lejeune and Chancel Mbemba should come into the side.
The Saints, lead by an expected attack of Shane Long, Nathan Redmond and Dusan Tadic, will attack with pace and directness.
Lejeune seems better equipped than Clark to handle such an approach, while Mbemba’s physicality should lessen the threat of the Southampton wingers.
However, the clash will be won and lost in the midfield, and that is why Benitez needs to field three men to combat Southampton’s trio in the centre of the park.
Ayoze Perez should be dropped after offering very little in recent matches, with Jonjo Shelvey moving into that more advanced role, although dropping deeper than the Spaniard did.
Isaac Hayden and Mikel Merino have already proven they are a formidable duo when playing together, and their dynamism and physical presence should disrupt the Southampton style.
While Christian Atsu and Matt Ritchie should remain on either flank after bright starts, it is last season’s top scorer Dwight Gayle who should figurehead the Magpies’ attack.
While he would never win a physical battle against the giants in the heart of the Saints’ defence, neither would Joselu, and by playing balls along the floor for Gayle, he can use his positioning and pace to make them pay.
Fans need only look at the ball Jonjo Shelvey played against Liverpool, dissecting the Reds’ defence for Joselu’s equaliser, with it appearing to be a chance better suited to Gayle.
Do all that, and Newcastle should demolish Southampton, and make the long journey down and back up from the south coast worth it for the travelling supporters.
In other Newcastle United news, a first team star was taken to hospital after suffering a broken bone in training.