During Rafa Benítez’s first two-and-a-half years at Newcastle, it’s been unusual to see anything but a 4-2-3-1 formation being deployed.
However, the 58-year-old has started to recently use a system with three centre-backs and two wingbacks, with the Magpies getting mixed results.
Ahead of their Boxing Day clash against Liverpool, Newcastle captain Jamaal Lascelles admits the last few weeks getting used to the new system have been ‘challenging’.
“It is something that can be challenging for a player. We work on it in training and we are not really used to it yet,” Lascelles said of Newcastle’s new system.
“For three seasons here with the manager, we have pretty much always been playing with four at the back, unless we played teams like Manchester City away.
“But the boys are adapting. The more we work on it, the better we will get. We have not done it that much. But people have stepped in and done well.
“We have got a lot of strength in depth at the back, so we have players who can play there, and people who are hungry to impress.”
Liverpool will be a challenge, however, Rafa is likely to continue with three centre-backs, though it’s likely Newcastle will use a flat back five.
Lascelles believes due to Liverpool’s open style of play, they will have more chances than they did against Fulham.
“[Fulham] is definitely a game we though we could get three points from,” the 25-year-old said.
“They are bottom of the table and, following our result [against Huddersfield Town] we had confidence and momentum heading into the game. But they are pretty solid at the back. We didn’t create as many chances as we thought we could.
“Teams lower down the table are much harder to break down because they are putting bodies behind the ball.
“It’s similar to the Championship season, with teams sitting behind the ball. The teams higher up the table, they are more exposed at the back as the keep sending bodies forward to attack. In a way it can be a positive for us.
“We have to work out how we can beat the block and get more goals at home during the second half of the season.”