A defeat to Brighton last weekend put an end to our run of three wins on the spin and Sunday sees Liverpool arrive to St. James’ Park, offering the sort of test we’re yet to face since the opening day against Spurs.
With this and some below-par displays at Brighton in mind, I’d be tempted to change things up a little and try out the following team for Sunday’s game :
NUFC XI: (4-2-3-1) – Elliot – Yedlin, Lascelles, Clark, Mbemba – Hayden, Merino – Ritchie, Shelvey, Atsu – Gayle.
Many have called for Shelvey to return to the midfield alongside Merino on Sunday after Hayden’s sloppy display against Brighton.
I would love to see Shelvey and Merino play together in the near future, however Shelvey offers less defensively and covers less ground than the combative Hayden, and that doesn’t bode well given we’re playing one of the league’s best attacking teams. For that reason, I’d keep Hayden and Merino together to offer greater protection, and would like to see Shelvey deployed just ahed of those two – seeing Ayoze Perez miss out.
Perez puts in a shift for the team and has the odd nice moment in a game, but too often flatters to deceive and remains on the fringes of things. Jonjo Shelvey possesses that killer instinct we were sorely lacking against Brighton and I back him over Perez to take advantage of any openings we’re offered on Sunday.
For that same reason, I’d be inclined to give Gayle the nod over Joselu up top. The Spaniard has missed a few too many chances, and although I feel he’s been harshly criticised, with his all round game and presence up top having been very useful, I feel Gayle’s superior finishing ability may be necessary in a game where we can’t afford to miss our chances.