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What is Newcastle United's Strongest Eleven?

Steve Bruce is now into his second season at the helm of his boyhood club. Whilst we can pretty much all agree "he's done a good job under the circumstances." Does Bruce still not know his strongest eleven?

I have to be honest, to me it seems obvious, but Bruce seems to be so reluctant to play my favoured 4-2-3-1 formation on a consistent basis. There always seems to be tweaks here and there which have sometimes resulted in the team's shape resembling headless chickens, particularly towards the end of last season, and this is even before we start on the Joelinton quandry.

Something that we all can agree on is Martin Dubravka being Newcastle's first choice in the sticks. A few errors here and there still failed to put a dampener on a superb effort last season, often saving the team's blushes and keeping Bruce's boys competitive.

For the four at the back, the wing-backs now pick themselves in Jamal Lewis and Javi Manquillo. I had sympathy for Lewis against Brighton, as Tariq Lamptey terrorised the Newcastle left, killing the game off in the first ten minutes! Lewis was left stranded and desperately pleading with Allan Saint-Maximin for some rather more intelligent defending than what was displayed in needlessly giving away a penalty in the opening minutes. Lewis, I firmly believe will still prove to be a fantastic signing long-term. The need for a right-back has slipped down the pecking order this summer, with Manquillo's resurgence nailing the right-back spot as his own. However, he is probably at the level you would want of a back-up rather than a first choice. DeAndre Yedlin seems to be on his way out of St James' Park and hearts sink if we see Emil Krafth's name on the team sheet.

The centre-back pairing has to be Lascelles and Fernandez, but should the pair have another afternoon like they did against Brighton, Ciaran Clark will be resuming his place in the back line. Clark was superb last season and it was unfortunate to see his campaign ended by injury. The Irish international returned in the Carabao Cup win against Blackburn and slotted back into action as though he'd never been away. On top of that, if Florian Lejuene can have an injury-free season on loan at Alaves, I expect him to feature in the equation next season.

The centre-midfield two also pretty much pick themselves, despite it being a competitive area of the squad. Shelvey and Hayden work well together in the main, and when a fully fit Matty Longstaff is back to his best, as well as new boy, Jeff Hendrick, who had an impressive debut at West Ham, means Bruce has the luxury and being able to change things up in the engine room as fixtures come thick and fast.

The three behind the central striker (which is obviously Callum Wilson) should be an exciting predicament for Bruce. New signing, Ryan Fraser renewing his Bournemouth partnership with Wilson, combining with Miggy Almiron and the enigmatic Allan Saint-Maximin should still be whetting the appetite of toon fans everywhere. They have the ability to interchange and fill in anywhere along that line. This system would have been effective in quelling the threat imposed by Lamptey, as Almiron or Fraser could have been deployed down the left, as ASM could simply not handle the defensive task handed to him by the young Brighton wing-back.

Matt Ritchie is a solid squad option, as you always know what you're going to get from him, and Sean Longstaff's best performances of late have been playing in the number ten role, often filled by Almiron. There is of course, Joelinton, who has been subject to plenty of debate since his arrival, as we all know. The fact is nobody seems to know what his position is, other than it's in the final third.

Andy Carroll is a real solid option off the bench - when fit, or in a physical game, as we saw against West Ham. Games like Brighton at home, where the game is dictated by pace, really aren't for him! The fact is Newcastle could use another option in the final third, because without Wilson, they don't look like scoring.

Bruce's old English style of keeping the same eleven because 'they played well last week' mentality, really came back to bite him and he cannot afford another tactical 'disasterclass' as a promising start at West Ham could soon turn 180 degrees, especially as Newcastle now have a tricky run of fixtures which could soon result in Bruce feeling the pressure. To stay out of the mess, Bruce will have to do something he's yet to do whilst in charge at St James' Park... Know his strongest eleven!



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