Many fans will admit it, our biggest problem position last season was the number 10 role. Neither Perez or Diame have made the position their own and we fully expected a much-needed new ‘no.10’ to be brought in this summer.
That, somehow, has not happened. With Siem De Jong returning to Ajax and the lack of natural playmakers at our disposal, we look woefully short in such a key position that links midfield to attack.
Here’s three ideas that could be worth a try by Benitez to solve what is an evident problem in this NUFC team:
Ritchie has been an inspired signing and whilst he does a sterling job down the right hand side, his awareness, quality on the ball and business off the ball give him some traits that could make him a very useful number 10. Perez – who has been deployed in the 10 role in each of our first 3 league games – has his moments, but has a tendency to go missing, be a soft touch or fail to make that key final pass or correct decision on the ball – I don’t think Ritchie would do any of the above nearly as much as Perez? With £12m signing Jacob Murphy eager for action and Rolando Aarons looking in great shape, either are contenders to fill the void he’d leave out wide.
Release Jonjo Shelvey
Benitez seems to like to see his ‘number 10’ play just off of the striker. At times last season, Mo Diame almost looked as if he was partnering Dwight Gayle up-front, which partly explains why he struggled in that role given he is a box-to-box central midfielder by trade. With this in mind, Shelvey wouldn’t suit Benitez’s typical role for his number 10, but if he was to use Shelvey in a slightly more advanced role ahead of Merino and Hayden, he could do some damage.
He is one of few players in our team who has genuine quality on the ball. He sees things others don’t and has the ability to execute and hurt teams – does playing him in a deep role deny him of some of his attacking threat? It could also be argued that playing him in a more attacking role could also help keep him out of trouble, with him having a tendency to do something stupid or be a little over zealous in a midfield battle.
A fit & firing Jonjo Shelvey could be a dangerous weapon next season..
— Black&WhiteBarmy (@BlackWhiteBarmy) August 3, 2017
Benitez toyed with the 3-5-2 formation over pre-season, and given the players at his disposal, it could be a wise move and one he may consider in time.
Perez and Diame have so often struggled to get into the game over the past 12 months. Losing a number 10 and reverting to a new system could pay dividends. It’s a long shot, but the 3-5-2 system could allow either of our target men, Mitrovic or Joselu, to potentially pair up with Gayle or Perez in a big man, little man combination. Out wide we have several hard working wingers and attacking full-backs who would be well suited to a wing/wing-back role, whilst Merino, Shelvey and Hayden could provide a well balanced midfield trio. In defence, we have the ability to play three centre-backs, with Benitez having Clark, Lejeune, Mbemba, Lascelles and Dummett to pick from.
Let us know your thoughts. Do you agree with any of the above suggestions? Do you have any other thoughts on how Benitez could go about tackling this issue? Or would you persevere with Perez and Diame?