Newcastle United have emerged as a suitor for Arsenal’s Granit Xhaka in recent weeks. The Swiss international is tipped to leave Emirates after falling out with the fans and the St. James’ Park could turn out to be an appealing destination. And in this article, we will discuss how Xhaka could potentially fit into Steve Bruce’s plans and what it could mean to the Newcastle side.
How could Xhaka fit in?
Bruce has predominantly used a three-man backline since replacing Rafael Benitez at the helm. It has offered him numerical superiority in midfield, with the fullbacks helping the team maintain a narrow shape.
As far as midfield is concerned, Bruce has juggled between Sean Longstaff, Isaac Hayden and Jonjo Shelvey in the two central midfield slot. However, the addition of Xhaka could complicate things, provided the Arsenal star is a guaranteed starter if he does indeed move to St. James’ Park.
That means Bruce will either have to change his formation or shift Longstaff or Shelvey to the bench. A change of formation is the likely option, but putting in an extra central midfield will reduce the creative potency in the final third. And that’s where reverting back to a four-man backline could come into the fray.
A 4-3-3 or even a 4-1-4-1 would certainly be feasible for Newcastle in their bid to accomodate all three of Xhaka, Hayden and Longstaff in the starting lineup. The latter, in particular, could slot in as the number six in a 4-1-4-1 shape, providing additional security to the backline while both Xhaka and Hayden could form the second line of press.
Is Xhaka a perfect fit for Steve Bruce?
From a purely tactical standpoint, Xhaka has the ability to provide the extra bite in the Newcastle United midfield. His leadership and aggression tune in well with the style of play of the club as they are often forced to run after the ball and receive minimal attacking opportunities.
In hindsight, Newcastle do have an above-average defensive unit with players like Jamaal Lascelles and Fabian Schar. But, it’s the lack of a robust presence in midfield that is allowing teams to not only dominate them but also complete transitions.
Xhaka, to that end, could minimise those frailties and build a formidable partnership with the likes of Hayden and Longstaff – making him a viable target for the Magpies.
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