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The Slack™(ers’) Chronicles: What is the Best Formation for Newcastle United?

The CHN Writers talk a little tactics and try to figure out what is the best formation for Newcastle United

Rochdale AFC v Newcastle United - FA Cup Third Round
Yedlin sits that poor guy down
Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

When we are not complaining about Newcastle on Twitter, the CHN Radio staff spends our free time talking about absolutely nothing in our Slack™ channel or roasting Bryan for his bad sports takes/ ability to be a sports curse.

On the rare occasion we talk about something worthwhile it usually ends up buried in the depths of our Slack™ channel history or it is brought up as some obscure reference on CHN Radio.

That, my friends, is now changing.

We are rolling out a brand new series (yes our second “brand new series” of 2020! wow!), that I totally came up with by myself called The Slack™(ers’) Chronicles * . In this Series I will literally just share with you all the interesting discussion we had in our Slack™ channel, and you can chime in with your own opinions.

Today’s topic comes from Writer Mirza Usman Baig, who simply began to ask questions of the effectiveness of the Back 3 formation under Steve Bruce.


(or don’t, it’s up to you)

Mirza Usman Baig (MB): Anybody else think that playing three center backs at the back is totally useless rn?

Yesterday, the back three was Hayden, Fernandez, Krafth

Like Bruce is literally taking players out of position to make three at the back work

When ASM comes back I want to see Newcastle line up with a true 4-2-3-1

Shelvey and Hayden as midfield pivots, almiron as 10, ASM and atsu out wide. With joelinton up top

Three at the back system only works well going forward when wingbacks are good at attacking and can bomb up the field. Our wingbacks are decent in attack, but in recent weeks, they have really stunk it up. I’d much rather have the main attacking responsibility fall on the shoulders of real attacking players. In a 4-2-3-1, joe would have 3 players in support (ASM, atsu, almiron)

Elijah Newsome (EN): Blog about it bro.

MB: Once upon a time, Rafa was able to get the best out of joselu in 4-2-3-1

EN: Arguably Newcastle’s best formation is a 4231 with Joelinton as one of the midfielders

Either a winger or the cam. With Andy up top

MB: I still wanna see joe as striker, I think he’s capable. This current system just doesn’t suit him at all

EN: If newcastle can get a decent striker on loan and a winger in I think that’s the best formation

MB: I don’t want Andy in the lineup at all, Bc then defenders resort to hoofing

EN: Not with 5 in the midfield

Also if Bruce were smart he would tell them not to

A RAM/CAM/LAM of Joelinton, Miggy and ASM is better than one with atsu in over Joelinton

Greg Troxell, Certified Stats Guy (GT): From an xg perspective our best formation is definitely 5-4-1

MB: Greg it gets us points, but our defenders are injured af

So we are having to play players out of position to make it work defensively

And it’s never suited joelinton

Or even almiron

GT: Yeah and we get torched in every other formation because our coach cant instruct

Almiron looks great in a 541 imo

EN: Looks better in the 352 arguably

MB: Honestly, If Bruce can’t run a 4-2-3-1, he shouldn’t be coaching. It’s the easiest formation

GT: He cant at all lol

EN: Bruce can run it. Just not well

MB: I agree with Elijah, he’s looked better in 352.

Almiron looks much better when he’s not designated to a specific wing. Free roam/central almiron >>>> rw or lw winger. At least w Bruce. He was a beast at lw with Rafa . But that’s in the past

GT: In the 352 almiron plays a striker

[He did] Yesterday

EN: he did once people came off. I’m talking about the one where he’s a midfielder alongside hayden. I guess that’s more of a 532

The one where he scored the goal

GT: But we dont play well as a team in 352

MB: I think almiron is just better when playing central with freedom to roam to wings. That’s one of the reasons I think 4-2-3-1 should be set in play

GT: So its either you want miggy to look good or the team

MB: With 4231 it could be both

GT: Shall we look back at every time we put 4 at the back? Do you remember what happened at Aston Villa?

MB: What was the overall formation?

GT: 442

MB: Yeah 442 is trash for this squad .Absolute trash

EN: 4231 gives you defensive cover I you have one of the midfielders stay back while we attack. This Could be the reason Bruce wants a ball winning midfielder. He’s said that, and has talked about using 4 in the back. I will give him credit for that

GT: We’ve played 93 minutes in a 4231 this year. Our xg is 0.05 and xA is 2.82 (which is good for 90 minutes)

EN: Look at u with the stats

MB: Against who? Honest Question

GT: Leicester when we lost 5-0

MB: Bruhhhhhh that doesn’t count

GT: Cause we got torched in that formation? Haha

MB: There was a red card

GT: But before that

MB: But to be fair, we sucked before the red card too

GT: We were getting torched

The problem with 4 at the back is our CBs, They always want to go forward. With 4 at the back, they need to stay there. They cant be as aggressive

MB: The thing is

It can work if u have one defensive wingback. One can stay back and it’ll dwarf into a 3 at the back when in possession

GT: It’s more of an “And” statement over an “Or”. If we have a DWB “AND” Disciplined CBs it will work

MB: Our cbs are good, they’ve gotten lazy with three at the back, too much diffusion of responsibility. They are capable of playing well, we all know that . Individually, there’s not a single one in our center back department that is Titus bramble level trash

GT: Rafa said the same thing with these guys

MB: Lejeune got rushed back, I still think he’s capable

GT: Rafa made the 4231 happen in England. But got here and tried it, it was awful and he switched to a 3 back and it clicked

EN: Part of the undisciplined nature of the CBs is that they feel pressured to join the attack because there’s not enough being done in the attack

MB:^ true

I honestly think that if u surround joelinton w almiron behind him (cam), and ASM and atsu on the wings, good shit will happen

GT: 5-4-1 with Almiron and ASM and we gucci

EN: I don’t think atsu is the answer...Please see my most recent preview lmao

MB: I mean he’s not great individually, but he’s the only other winger we have

GT: Atsu dominated a League One side tho lol

MB: Ideally, Newcastle goes out and signs another winger

And then that winger will start in atsu’s place

But that’s ideal

GT: I say they move Joe to winger and sign another striker

MB: Newcastle can’t do anything that’s ideal

Yeah that too [In reference to moving Joelinton to the wing]

Regardless of how u want to proceed, Newcastle needs another striker and winger

I’m so tired of muto as well lmfaooo. He’s not a viable striker

GT: Hahaha so true. I used to think he was gonna be the shit too

MB: Same here man, he has nice pace. Just seems too casual

GT: 352 we’ve given up 10 goals in 401 minutes. Yikes.

541 we’ve given up 15 goals in 1299 minutes. A lot better

So yeah that’s it. We talked about tactics. Greg is very much a fan of the 5-4-1 and brought the analytics to back it up. Mirza and I think Newcastle could potentially make a 4-2-3-1 work as long as there is discipline from the back line. All of us who were speaking seem to think the 3-5-2 worked ok at times but is not the definitive answer.

What do you think? Let us know in the comment section!

* The idea from this was actually stolen from our friends over at Dirty South Soccer. Their site covers Miguel Almiron’s former club Atlanta United and if you have read some of my work on Miguel I quote them frequently.

Seriously, they churn out really f***ing good content. Check them out here.