Based on Bruce’s recent comments, he sees no reason to change the 4-3-1-2 formation that we’ve gone with every since Graeme Jones arrived.
For me, performance levels have gone up (albeit only slightly!) since we changed systems and stuck with it, however it’s also been clear that we’ve yet to find the right combination when Wilson, Almiron and Saint-Maximin are missing.
An example being last Friday’s 1-1 draw with Villa – a game that saw Fraser play centrally but want to pull wide, Gayle play wide but want to play centrally and Joelinton play well in parts but ultimately crumble the moment he got into good positions!
Factoring in all of the above, along with Brighton’s strengths, weaknesses and the fact Manquillo and Almiron might just be fit to start, I’d like to see us go with this side:
(4-3-1-2): Dubravka – Manquillo, Lascelles, Clark, Dummett – Willock, Hayden, M Longstaff – Almiron – Fraser, Murphy.
OUT – Krafth, Shelvey, Joelinton, Gayle
IN – Manquillo, M Longstaff, Almiron, Murphy
Bruce said he was ‘erring on the side of caution’ by not starting Javier Manquillo last Friday, so he should be more than ready to come in for the limited Emil Krafth this weekend.
In midfield, it’s highly unlikely that Jonjo Shelvey is dropped, but his lack of mobility could cost us against a Brighton side who move the ball quickly. As a result, I’d like to see Matty Longstaff and Joe Willock offering energy and enthusiasm either side of Isaac Hayden – who is better used sat in front of the back four than breaking forward as he’s tried to in recent weeks.
Then to Almiron – the man who has made us tick and absolutely shone in that No 10 role since we switched to a 4-3-1-2. Bruce stated last weekend that he had an outside chance of being fit to face Brighton and was going along “very, very nicely” after a recent knee injury was declared much more minor than first feared.
Given Brighton lack pace at the back and will dominate possession, our best hope of hurting them could be on the break. I’d therefore like to see Almiron playing in that false 9 role with Fraser wide left and Murphy wide right, with the latter more than deserving of a start after doing more in 10 minutes last Friday than most did in 90!
That would see us play without a recognised striker, however we can’t afford another anonymous display from Gayle, more missed chances from Joelinton or to throw in Carroll and hope for the best – especially when I don’t see him getting much joy out of 6ft 4′ centre-back Lewis Dunk or being able to last the pace from the off!
How would you like to see us line up for Saturday’s must-win game at The Amex?