It’s been pretty clear for a while now that this 5-3-2 formation Steve Bruce insists on just isn’t working anymore.
We switched to a back four 30 minutes into last Friday’s 1-1 draw with Leeds and looked better for it, but it feels vital we start with a much more forward thinking system for Saturday’s trip to Watford.
With the above in mind, here’s the side I believe would cause Watford problems and deliver our first win of the season this weekend:
(4-2-2-2): Darlow – Manquillo, Lascelles, Fernandez, Lewis – Hayden, Willock – Murphy, Almiron – Joelinton, Saint-Maximin.
Starting with the four man defence, I feel like Fernandez and Lascelles are our strongest pairing when we’re not playing a five.
Clark has been unconvincing for a few months now, Schar is better used on the right side of a three-man defence and, for me, Fede remains one of our most reliable centre-backs and should play alongside the skipper.
I’d then put Lewis in at left-back. I know what you’re thinking, he’d be facing Watford’s star man Ismaila Sarr, but he is much better equipped to deal with him than Matt Ritchie – who would get done for pace time after time if he was up against the Senegalese speed-machine.
In midfield, Isaac Hayden and Joe Willock could compliment each other well, while Murphy and Almiron’s pace in wide areas would allow them to get at Watford’s ageing full-backs.
Also, playing Almiron on the left could allow him to double up on Sarr when needed, giving him the freedom to get up and down the line – something he did so well in our last away game at Man Utd.
Down the other side, I’d also back Murphy to cause ex-Mag Danny Rose all sorts of problems when played in his preferred position on the right wing.
Up top, Joelinton and Saint-Maximin could play in floating roles that keep the Watford defence guessing. Whether they come short, drift wide or aim to get in behind, they both showed real flashes on the counter in that 4-1 defeat at Old Trafford and combined well for our equaliser against Leeds last Friday.
So, a new formation, the return of natural full-backs, a solid midfield with plenty of energy and four attackers who could hurt them in wide areas and on the counter.
I’d be tempted to throw Dwight Gayle into the mix to give us that ‘fox in the box’ we’ve been lacking in Wilson’s absence, however Joelinton has done enough to suggest he’s offering plenty to the team – he just needs a goal to show for his efforts.
OUT – Clark, Ritchie, S Longstaff
IN – Fernandez, Lewis, Murphy