17 months on the job and Steve Bruce finally thinks he has the right shape at Newcastle United.
As you all know by now, Newcastle United will not be in action on Friday evening against Aston Villa due to an outbreak of COVID-19 at the training ground, which will be closed until the end of this week.
The club released a statement regarding this news, but for the sake of player privacy, names of those infected will not be publicized.
With the game now postponed for a later date, the next game on the cards will be the home fixture against 18th-placed West Brom on December 12th.
The Baggies are off to a slow start this season, and they are expected to finish among the bottom three, but they have put up decent fights in recent weeks, so this will not be an easy game for Newcastle United.
One thing fans should definitely expect in this clash is a similar setup from last Friday against Crystal Palace. Some pundits called the shape a 4-4-2, but the way the players were positioned made it more of a 4-2-3-1, with Joelinton playing in the number ten role.
If Joelinton can improve his finishing and avoid scuffing the ball every other chance he gets, the Brazilian can be a major nuisance in that role, and his impact was on display for all to see at Selhurst Park with seven shot attempts, one goal, and one brilliant assist to Callum Wilson.
In a recent interview, as quoted by the Chronicle, this is what Bruce had to say about the attacking partnership he plans on regularly deploying over the course of the season:
"“We don’t see it [playing two strikers] very often these days. The way the game is played these days it’s all changed. He [Joelinton] is certainly a handful. The link-up play and a little of quality between him [Joelinton] and Callum Wilson have got them both a goal and assist each.”"
Newcastle Toons Verdict
It was only one game (Friday vs. Crystal Palace), but fans finally saw what Joelinton is capable of doing in the final third when played in a position where he is surrounded by multiple players in a narrow shape.
With Callum Wilson up top and two supporting players on the wings, Joelinton has more targets to link up with, and he also more avenues to run through to receive the ball in dangerous areas.
As mentioned above, Joelinton needs to improve his finishing in order to create meaningful chances that truly threaten keepers, but he proved that he is not shy to fire away.
His performance as the number ten, in my eyes, was no fluke and it came against a team that boasts a decent defensive record. Crystal Palace shut out Southampton, and limited Manchester United and the attack-minded Leeds United to one goal each.
Bruce is making the right call by giving Joelinton more chances to form a partnership with Wilson, and with the next few opponents being West Brom (18th), Leeds United (12th), Fulham (17th), and Brentford (FA Cup), this is the perfect time to see if Joelinton can develop consistency.