Cheik Tiote is facing a spell on the sidelines after suffering another injury over the weekend. You can easily build an argument on either side of the discussion as to whether this has an adverse effect on the overall quality of the side at this point as Tiote has looked the slightest shadow of his former self in his limited action this season, but it does set up a difficulty of numbers in central midfield.
Gone for various reasons are the days when Newcastle had a logjam of midfield players featuring the likes of Yohan Cabaye, Tiote, Mehdi Abeid, Dan Gosling, exciting young Gaél Bigirimana and Moussa Sissoko, leaving Steve McClaren the proverbial "selection headache" for the club's weekend date with former manager Alan Pardew. Monday's U21 match saw Yoan Gouffran and Siem de Jong attempt to work their way back to match fitness as the pair look to be in contention for filling the gap created by Tiote's absence.
It would be preferable that the nod go to Siem de Jong as performances on the pitch have shown us that we are suddenly desperate for that player that can pick a pass and provide distribution from the middle of the pitch, but the Dutchman has seemed to have been produced from spun glass during his time at St. James' Park, providing a real concern that we could be looking at another CM hitting the injury list following the Crystal Palace match. If he could somehow shake off his injury problems, de Jong is clearly the preferable option even if a truly CM isn't specifically his preferred position.
Yoan Gouffran has fallen out of favor with McClaren as well as the Toon faithful mostly due to a string of sub-par performances over the last year and it seems that playing him out of position yet again is not going to be the best way forward. Although he has exhibited willingness to track back from forward positions, he isn't always effective when doing so which is probably the last thing this team needs at this point. Providing a brighter bullseye target at the center of our defense does not really seem prudent at all.
Through the magic of the twitter machines, another option was suggested which has some degree of logic behind it even if it is probably far-fetched as it involves the one part of our defense that has been closest to consistently good this season. User @davidpick1987 offered this suggestion:
Just chucking this out there given Lascelles might be due a shot at CB - I reckon Mbemba would be outstanding as a defensive midfielder.— David Pick (@davidpick1987) November 23, 2015
The thinking behind this is that Jamal Lascelles (who also played 90 minutes for the U21s today) may be ready for a shot in the first team which would allow Chancel Mbemba to slide into a DM position in front of Colcoccini and Lascelles. While this could work beautifully as Mbemba has shown some ability on the ball and an eye for going forward in addition to solid defensive play. It is an intriguing thought which likely won't even come in to play as Mbemba is quite valuable at the back at this point.
How would you deal with this selection problem? de Jong? Gouffran? Mbemba? Change in formation? Some other unlisted option? Climb in the time machine and make Bigi better so that he's ready for this opportunity? Let us know below!