Steve Bruce has indicated that Miguel Almiron could feature up front in a 4-4-2 formation.
The Paraguay international was a surprise omission from our starting line-up in last weekend’s 2-0 triumph over West Ham, but Bruce has revealed that is no fault of his own – opting for the physicality of Andy Carroll instead.
Almiron was our top scorer in all competitions last season with eight and has been one of Bruce’s most selected outfield player since his arrival.
Now the gaffer has told the press ahead of tomorrow’s clash with Brighton about exactly where Almiron could fit into his new system – which could well be a 4-4-2, NOT the 4-2-3-1 he used towards the end of 2019/20 or the 5-4-1 used for most of last season.
Here is what Bruce said, via The Chronicle, in full in his latest press conference via Zoom:
“He could be one of the two, that’s for sure. He can play higher up the pitch and that’s what we did when we bought him. Probably that’s his best position.
“He can play in a number of positions. I’ve said many times what I think of the lad. I don’t think he missed much at all last year.
“I picked a team against West Ham that I knew had to be physically able to cope with them and, to be fair, they still got two big headers in the first-half. That was the biggest thing against us, set-pieces and being able to cope with it.
“Physicality was certainly needed and Andy [Carroll] performed very well in pre-season. He trained every day, got a couple of goals, and we saw from his performance exactly what I was looking for.
“I had to make a big decision but ultimately that is what you get paid for and what you get judged on.
“I think you all know what I think of Almiron.
“He’s a manager’s dream and a delight. He’d be disappointed, for sure, but certainly the idea was to physically be ready for West Ham and when people were tired with 20, 25 minutes to go, then a lively Almiron… and he nearly scored and nearly did what we all wanted him to do.
“Of course he’s not going to be [happy] but, then again, I can only pick 11. But he’ll be involved at the weekend, that’s for sure.”
There can be no arguments about whether Bruce was right to play Carroll over Almiron last weekend given the nature of our win and the performance big Andy put in against his former club.
Carroll lasted the game well and did his role superbly, but Almiron also came off the bench to grab an assist for Jeff Hendrick’s clincher late on, giving Bruce a reminder what his pace and creativity can offer.
He also recorded another quality assist in midweek to split the Blackburn backline, teeing off Ryan Fraser for his first goal for the club.
Almiron has quality and a tireless work rate – which allowed him to remain popular with supporters despite his barren spell in front of goal during his first year at the club.
He still lacks a real ruthless streak in front of goal but there are signs that he is getting better and his electric pace is enough to terrify any Premier League defence.
His best role is probably just behind the striker in a number ten role, but he was also effective on the left of a front three during the dying embers of Rafa Benitez’s tenure of Tyneside.
It will be interesting to see where he will be deployed this season with our latest batch of attacking talent giving Bruce a real dilemma when selecting his frontline – something he would have begged for throughout the whole of last season.