While it was pleasing to see us gain a much needed win over Cheltenham Town during the week, perhaps we should not get too carried away.
While Cheltenham play in a league, three levels below the Premier League, the home team put in a spirited effort and it was gratifying to make it through to the third round against Bolton Wanderers.
So once again, we have another game away from home – this time against Newcastle at St. James’ Park on Saturday.
This is a game that we should win, although it is dangerous to dismiss any team from the North East; they are very well organised teams, with huge fan-bases, as statistics show on https://www.fotboll.com/.
Despite the absence of Winston Reid and Marko Arnautovic, the team will be bolstered by the welcomed return of Cheikhou Kouyate and our playmaker gem, Manuel Lanzini. For this encounter, I have tried to provide strong balance in midfield and attack in the below example…
The 3-5-2 formation could allow Slaven Bilic to make further progress on the fighting form we showed against Southampton.
The three players in central defence included another chance for young Declan Rice to demonstrate his poise and balance that you rarely see at such a tender age. While I have slotted in Angelo Ogbonna to partner Rice and Zabaleta, Bilic may be encouraged to start with James Collins, who put in a MOTM display against Cheltenham.
I have pushed Rice a little further ahead of his fellow centre-backs in order to make close contact for accurate passing to the midfield unit. If the defence is under too much pressure, Pedro Obiang can pull back in order to shift to a 4-4-2 formation if required.
By placing Obiang and Kouyate in central midfield, this allows Bilic the luxury to use Cresswell and Antonio as wing-backs.
Expect Antonio to improvise in the directions of his runs; his blistering speed, pace and acceleration add a dimension which is hard for defenders to counter. Lanzini is expected to make a return in this game and I can only assume that Bilic will be keen to put him in the starting XI.
Should he tire at some stage, Bilic could use either Ayew or the improving Edimilson Fernandes to fill in.
While Bilic is in a positive frame of mind, we assume that he will have no issues in pairing Sakho with Chicharito up front. Sakho put in a very good display during the week, scoring a goal and setting up Andre Ayew for the second.
If Sakho tires, Ayew or the exciting Nathan Holland could carry us through to the end of the game.
If Chicharito shows anything like he did against Southampton, we could be in for a very pleasant surprise. I have a very positive sense of how well he and Sakho will team up. In addition, there is the potential for four to five of our agile midfielders to provide Little Pea with an abundance of fox-in-the box chances – the sort of stuff he eats for breakfast.
I’ve said it once and am prepared to say it until I turn ‘blue in the face’; assuming that Bilic chooses a sensible balanced formation, it is imperative that we press hard, play fast and attempt to gain a useful degree of possession.
The rest should go according to physics, since we have enough fire-power to grab our all-important first win!