Last Saturday saw us get back to winning ways with a 1-0 victory over Crystal Palace, and whilst that team did deliver the all important 3 points, I’d be inclined to see Rafa make a few changes for Monday night’s trip to Turf Moor.
There’s valid arguments for and against the following four suggestions, but here are the changes I’d be tempted to make and why against Burnley:
Mitrovic for Joselu
Joselu grabbed what looked to be a big big goal for him in our home draw with Liverpool earlier this month, but since then he’s really struggled to get into the game or offer a goal threat. He put in a shift, but he was poor against Southampton and Palace.
Prior to his moment of madness against West Ham, Mitrovic has shown some decent glimpses over pre-season and on international duty for Serbia, bagging goals against Forest & West Ham too. He has it all to do to win over Rafa Benitez at NUFC, but he was decent in his short cameo against Palace and I’d be inclined to give him his chance on Monday.
Whether Rafa will do this is a totally different matter, but Joselu could do with a rest and reminder that he must stay on top of his game to retain his place in the first team, also giving Mitrovic his big chance to put in 110% and prove himself to Benitez in the starting 11.
Merino for Hayden
There’s every chance Hayden plays, with Benitez appearing to favour the combative midfielder away from home, however the combination of Shelvey and Merino is one I favour – especially against slightly lesser opposition who we should be looking to hurt.
Merino is more than capable of taking up a more defensive role, giving Shelvey a bit more freedom to get forward and pick those killer passes – something we’ll need from him given our constant struggles to create from the number 10 role.
Clark for Manquillo
Manquillo has done a decent job at left-back in the last three, however Burnley are a big, physical side and putting Clark in at left-back could help us nullify that aerial threat.
Clark is naturally left-sided and has played at left-back several times over his career, so he’d be capable of playing there. I also feel he has superior defensive instincts to the slightly more forward thinking Manquillo, meaning he could be better placed to stop crosses from coming into the box.
Diame for Perez
I’ve supported Perez for as long as I could this season, with his work off the ball being beneficial to the team, however his performance against Palace was nothing short of woeful. He struggled to even control the ball and offered so so little around the isolated Joselu.
Diame – who has not been much better himself during his odd cameo this season – came on in his place and did more in the 20 minutes he was on the pitch than Perez did during the entire game prior. For what it’s worth, I also remember Diame and Mitrovic enjoying some of their better games when they were paired together last season – one occasion being them scoring two goals each in a 6-0 home win over Preston.
Perez may be a good runner, but he’s very poor physically. Diame’s muscle could be beneficial against a physical Burnley side?
This isn’t a change I’m expecting Rafa to make, however it would be a fair reward for Diame’s impact last Saturday and a much needed warning to Perez that he must improve his attacking play to keep his place in the starting 11. He might help us defensively in his pressing, but I’d argue that him losing possession so often only puts pressure on our defence, thus undoing the good work he does off the ball?
Here’s the line-up I’d like to see: