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The Selection Question: A Conversation

Since Selection has been a hot topic recently with the addition of some new players, RKW and I decided to sit down and talk about what the best course of action might be. Tell us in the comments what you think about what your Starting XI would look like.

Robert: So we've already set the stage in previous posts: Hughton has brought in several players, but the ones we already had have been doing some good work on their one. Obviously James Perch is somebody that was added early in the transfer window and has been contributing already, but what about these other guys who have never put on a Newcastle jersey before? Where do you put them? Who do you sit so they'll have room to play?

RKW: Well I guess the easiest way to approach the topic is to start with a Starting XI. As it is right now I think our best 11 on the field looks like this:
|---------------------------------Big Andy-----------------------------------|

I realize this leaves us without a Defensive Midfielder, but I think you have to see if Barton and Nolan can do the work without getting in too much card trouble.

Robert: I think your omission of a defensive midfielder is interesting, but let's get to that in a second. Right now I see that HBA is the only new guy to crack your Starting XI, and you've bumped Nolan back. Is this more a result of what you think HBA can do, or a referendum on Nolan's work in his current position?

RKW: Well, everyone has been so good it's hard to pick on performance. So it's really more of where I think the great skill set of HBA can be best worked into our system. As he said recently, he wants to be the guy supplying ammunition to Andy. I like that idea very much, and I think he can do more in the middle than out on the right.

Robert: What do you think of this idea of sitting Barton since he already has several cards, and going from there once you've seen what you've got in these new players?

RKW: I like the fact that we have enough flexibility to have a quick replacement for Joey when he does serve his suspensions, and believe me he will. But, I don't like the idea of benching him like you would a basketball player in foul trouble. He's played so well and seems to have adjusted his attitude to avoid the outburst problems of the past, and I don't want to give him any reason to think we aren't 100% behind the new and improved Joey Barton - well, except for the mustache, we were glad to see that go.

Robert: No doubt. I've been thinking about this a lot, and I think I agree with you. If Joey were to sit now, it would almost be as if Hughton were doubling his suspension, since we seem to be in agreement that he will reach that suspension threshold. Might as well get some games from him while we can. What I'm struggling with the most is that I don't think he should sit, but really, who should? If you move Alan Smith out, you lose that defensive presence that you need in midfield as a result of Jose Enrique and Joey Barton (and occasionally even James Perch) creeping up toward the goal. Tiote is a defensive midfielder as well, but I see him more as a guy who can spell Smith when he needs it, rather than as a pure replacement. You can't replace your captain, so as much as it pains me to say it, maybe Routledge is the guy who needs to take a seat to make room for HBA. What do you think about that?

RKW: I see the whole midfield as a liquid entity. I think you go all offense now, but it's really an experiment, isn't it? If Barton and Nolan can't defend well enough or we see Barton getting carded for ticky tack stuff, we'll have to reevaluate. I see Tiote/Smith as a switch out based on the needs of the game. If you need that physicality that Tiote is said to bring then you go with him, but if you need the pace and crafty-ness of Smith you go with him. As long as Routledge keeps playing like he is I can't see him being on the bench. But if he does have a rough spell, Barton can play out there, then you can get that defensive MF back in the game. I guess my point is you have to at leas try out the all offensive MF since our back 4 have been playing so strong.

Robert: Speaking of the Back 4, do you think Campbell should get some playing time this Saturday? I think I'd like to see him come in as a late replacement, and for whom would obviously depend on the game situation. What are your thoughts?

RKW: I don't give him the starting job yet, not with Colo and Williamson playing so well, but I would like to see him in relief of someone. He's fit and I think that means he should get some time. If everything goes right on Saturday I think we could end up seeing every one of our new players, at least all the uninjured.

Robert: I was thinking the same thing, though I would be prepared not to see one of them since Andy Carroll may need a sub. I'd like to see him play 70 or so minutes, and in a perfect world, we'd have a comfortable lead at that point and can put Shola or Lovenkraands in there to play out the rest of the game. With that in mind, here's my Starting XI:


As I said, Shola or Peter would be ready to come in for Carroll, with Routledge also coming off the bench to replace HBA if it looks like the offensive chemistry is lacking. Tiote could come in for Smith, or Campbell could replace one of the defenders if their form is off. Obviously you want to be flexible with your subs, but I like trying to keep as much chemistry going as possible and I think this would accomplish that. Anything to add?

RKW: Well, we agree on the 4-4-1-1.

Robert: Yes, I would think that Hughton would want to keep the shape that has worked so far.

RKW: Routledge has been soooo good though. Ugh, this is a problem every manager wants to have. If I really think hard about what I believe Hoots will actually do, I think he'll stay with the starting 11 that have been so good over the first 3 games, and take a look at the new guys if and when we get the game under control.

Robert: I certainly wouldn't fault him for it. Sometimes you have to rely on the people that have gotten you where you are. If that were to happen, I would hope that the supporters would demonstrate some patience. It's really tempting to get out those shiny new toys and see what they can do, but if the same XI is going to be effective, I see no reason to change a winning formula.

RKW: Yeah, I'm right there with you, but I do think that if The Toon Army doesn't get to see Hatem Ben Arfa at St. James on Saturday there might be a riot. The game is almost sold out save for 700 seats the Seasiders can't move, and you have to think those folks want to see some of that flashy midfield work that has HBA all over the Youtube Highlight Video.

Robert: Very true. I have to believe, though, that winning will go a long way toward quelling any sort of personnel protests. The bottom line is that if the result is right, we'll all be singing Hughton's praises on Sunday, no matter who he puts out there.

RKW: Agreed, 3 points will buy our patience. I really do think Hoots will send the same 11 out there, and I really do think that that 11 will be up 2-0 at the half. That will give us the whole second half to see the stylings of HBA.

Howay the Lads!