Despite damaging defeats to Leicester, Liverpool and Man City over the past week, there’s still reason to believe this side can get a positive result against Man Utd next Monday.
Defensively we’ve been abysmal and continue to shoot ourselves in the foot with costly errors, however we’ve shown a positive tactical approach to each of the last two games, had nothing go our way and, on another day, might’ve ran both much closer.
Man Utd will arrive after a 16-day break, having two games called off since that 1-0 win at Norwich on December 11th, but I believe the following side could cause them problems at St James’ Park.
Here’s what we’d like to see Howe go for next time out:
(4-3-3): Dubravka – Manquillo, Schar, Lascelles, Ritchie – Willock, Shelvey, Joelinton – Fraser, Wilson, Saint-Maximin.
This relies on Manquillo recovering from illness and Jonjo Shelvey being passed fit to play after missing Sunday’s defeat to Man City, however I feel this could be something like the side Howe selects.
Hayden is banned following his fifth yellow of the season, Schar will almost certainly return for error-prone Clark and Willock and Joelinton’s energy either side of the deep-lying Shelvey could be key.
It may seem attacking, but the Brazilian was outstanding in a box-to-box midfield role against the league leaders, meaning he and Willock could do the running and dirty work as Shelvey looks to dictate the play from deep, also giving the centre-backs an option as we look to play out from the back.
As for the front three, Fraser put in another handy performance over the weekend and should keep his place, while Saint-Maximin will be ready to replace Almiron after a rest.
The Paraguayan’s energy and enthusiasm is great, however his indecisiveness in key moments let us down against City.
We’ve rarely seen these Fraser and Saint-Maximin start either side of Wilson – our best front three for me – so why not give them a go against a Man Utd defence that’s often looked suspect this season?
Left-back is an issue, with Ritchie constantly out of position and too slow to get back whenever he plays in a four, but we don’t have many other options with Lewis out.
How would you like to see us line up when the Red Devils come to town on the 27th?