Eddie Howe isn’t one for tinkering with his Newcastle United side – especially after a win – but this weekend’s visit of Arsenal throws up some selection questions for the Magpies boss just days before a tricky trip to Dortmund.
With the European clash falling just 72 hours after the visit of the Gunners, the Newcastle boss may be tempted to rest some of his key stars for the St James’ Park showpiece. One unpopular, yet necessary, call would be to give Anthony Gordon a much-needed rest.
The left-winger was one of just a few who kept their place in the side at Old Trafford this week, days after the 2-2 draw at Wolves. Playing through the middle, Gordon looked like a player who had been subjected to a hectic schedule in recent weeks, something accelerated by the absence of Harvey Barnes.
The injuries may be piling up on Tyneside but Howe has a popular pick ready to replace Gordon out wide in the form of Joe Willock. Fresh from a goal in the 3-0 win over Manchester United, the former Arsenal man can exact revenge on his former employees if deployed out wide.
There will be many voices arguing Gordon, one of Newcastle’s most in-form stars, should retain his place in Howe’s XI. However, with such a crucial European tie on the horizon, a rare break for the 22-year-old may be beneficial.
After all, Howe gave Nick Pope, Kieran Trippier, Dan Burn, Jamaal Lascelles, Fabian, Schar, Bruno Guimaraes and Callum Wilson some time on the bench in midweek, while also planning to rest Miguel Almiron before he was thrown on well ahead of schedule to replace Matt Targett.
Willock has picked up where he left off last season with a fine finish in midweek and could provide the perfect balance on the left-side on Newcastle’s attack, with Joelinton and Burn in behind him at St James’ Park this weekend.
“I think Joe deserves a lot of credit for his performance because his athleticism, his speed and his general game was there after a long absence,” Howe said on Friday. “He was making runs from the first minute.
“He scored his goal at the time he was going to come off! I was delighted with that aspect of his performance. He is a huge player for us. I am so glad he scored – that would have done him the world of good.”
Gordon, who has finally firmly found his footing on these shores, won’t want to miss a single game given his current mood and recent form. With another run of fixtures and a potential England call-up on the way, Howe should make the tough call in the Premier League this weekend.
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