Looking ahead to Sunday’s opening game of the season, we’ve been thinking o the starting 11 we’d like to see Rafa pick to tackle the tough test that is Tottenham Hotspur.
In my opinion, the following team has the ability to benefit us both defensively and offensively, with the key being the protection of the back four and the use of Jonjo Shelvey in a slightly more advanced role:
Shelvey has looked razor sharp in pre-season and has had a real spring in his step, looking more mobile than i’ve ever been used to seeing him and playing him ahead of the combative Hayden and Merino could be a masterstroke from Rafa.
Merino looks to be an intelligent player, both on and off the ball, and the double pivot of he and Isaac Hayden could be key to take care of the devastating duo of Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli who will carry a huge threat playing off the imperious Harry Kane.
Ahead of a defensive midfield duo we’ve often seen Ayoze Perez or Mo Diame used in the number 10 role, however the pair have a tendency to drift out of games and can often be hit or miss.
Against a team like Spurs we can’t afford such luxuries and must make good use of any opportunities we’re offered to spring a counter attack or make that key final pass. With this in mind, I have far more faith in Jonjo Shelvey finding that inch perfect pass to release a Dwight Gayle or Christian Atsu than I do either of the aforementioned number 10 options.
Shelvey got into the final third in a pre-season game against Bradford last month and his vision and execution was immaculate, even showing improved pace and mobility to beat a man (which could come in handy in a slightly more advanced role).
A fit & firing Jonjo Shelvey could be a dangerous weapon next season..
— Black&WhiteBarmy (@BlackWhiteBarmy) August 3, 2017
With Lejeune and Clark striking up a solid partnership over pre-season, Yedlin injured, Atsu in superb form and Dwight Gayle expected to be OK for Sunday, the team generally picks itself, but the protection provided from Hayden and Merino combined with the Shelvey in a slightly more advanced role gives us the best chance of having the necessary combination defensive solidarity and offensive capability in Sunday’s game.
As ever let us know your thoughts – would you like to see us line up like this on Sunday?