“Slowly walking down the hall, faster than a cannonball…”
Newcastle United earned three important points yesterday in a 1-0 victory at Stoke City. Ayoze Perez scored the match-winner in the second half, but manager Rafa Benitez may have discovered a new approach in the attack before that sequence even took place.
The Magpies lined up in a unique way on Monday, with Christian Astu in a striker role on the front-line with Perez. While not seen often in that positon, the 25-year-old winger made a tremendous impact on the game with his pace and skill on the ball.
In a rainy and windy atmosphere, the Stoke back-line had great difficulty containing Atsu and closing down space effectively.
The Ghanaian international created several early scoring opportunities, and put good pressure on the home side in re-gaining possession for Newcastle.
When analysing the competition that the Toon will face in the coming weeks, utilising Atsu as a forward would be an intelligent option.
The next two fixtures
Benitez’s squad have two consecutive home matches on the way this month. Luton Town visit St. James’ Park on Saturday in the FA Cup, with Swansea City arriving the week after that in league play.
Atsu against both of these defences high up the pitch could be extremely successful, and lead to more chances in the opposing half.
With Astu lined up there, Matt Ritchie and Jacob Murphy can operate on the wings. Fans saw the influence this can have during Perez’s goal yesterday, with Murphy’s incredible pass setting up the winning shot.
Both Luton and Swansea will not be able to handle the Magpies if they play as they did at Stoke, so replicating that team is the best possible move.
Newcastle United and Rafa Benitez will want to build upon their latest triumph. In order to do so, Christian Atsu needs to be a forward once again.