Cardiff come to Newcastle this weekend fresh from a defeat against struggling Wigan, so is this the perfect time to start both Dwight Gayle and Aleksandar Mitrovic?
It would certainly be a big statement of intent from Rafa Benitez, to include two strikers in his line-up.
To further support this, new Cardiff recruit Sol Bamba, has always struggled when having to mark an opponent, rather than perform his regular sweeping duties, which was evident this season in his start for Leeds United, which saw the Ivorian leave Elland Road early.
However, it is worth remembering just how well Benitez’s side have started this season, as well as the Spaniards success in the past.
If Benitez feels that the best way for the side to line up, is with 4-2-3-1 formation, then as fans, we need to trust his decision. As exciting as it may seem to play two up front, it could easily backfire, potentially leaving us three points worse off.
With the current formation working well, coupled with Newcastle being the highest scorers in the division, it is also worth remembering that while many sides, Newcastle included, play an attacking 4-2-3-1 formation, it has been some time since anyone played an attacking 4-4-2.
In fact, in recent years, the 4-4-2 formation has been used to play wingers that offer more cover to their fullback’s and a second striker used primarily to work hard, for example Okazaki at Leicester last season, with the focus being on one or two ‘star’ players to win the game, rather than the team dynamic that Benitez seems to be trying to build at Newcastle.
With this in mind, what should the team be for the Cardiff clash?
Karl Darlow will no doubt continue in goal, after impressing since he displaced Matz Sels. While There is an argument for DeAndre Yedlin to continue at right-back, it is likely that Vurnon Anita will be back in the side, to give more balance behind an attack-minded midfield. Paul Dummett seems to be irreplaceable at left back and while the Welshman may not be everyone’s favourite player, he is doing well enough to keep his place in the defence. As are centre backs Jamaal Lascelles and Ciaran Clark.
In midfield, regular Jonjo Shelvey will no doubt start as normal, while, due to home advantage, Isaac Hayden’s composure on the ball could compliment Shelvey well. The real dilemma comes in the shape of who to play on the wings. There seems no reason to drop Yoan Gouffran, he is playing well and gives great balance to the side, while also scoring some important goals. With Christian Atsu most likely to come in for the suspended Matt Ritchie, in a more realistic attack minded change. Atsu is very exciting and may pose a direct threat to the Cardiff back-line, again, due to home advantage.
Then there is the forward line. Mo Diame seems to have recaptured his form, and this makes him the outstanding candidate to continue in the attacking midfield role. However, in recent home games, Benitez has gone with Ayoze Perez as his ‘number ten’, with Diame being preferred away from home.
With this in mind, it is likely that Perez, who himself is in good form, will start the game. With Aleksandar Mitrovic in such good form, many fans want him to continue but as he seems to play better with Mo Diame, it is more likely that top scorer, Dwight Gayle, will be recalled if he is fit.