NEWCASTLE UNITED have had to become accustomed to dealing with bad news this season. Even so, yesterday’s confirmation that Allan Saint-Maximin and Miguel Almiron will be sidelined for at least the next month still felt like a particularly damaging blow. Already deprived of the services of Callum Wilson, the Magpies now find themselves without their three best attacking talents.

Almiron suffered knee-ligament damage in the first half of Saturday’s draw with Wolves, while Saint-Maxmin was unable to continue after tearing his groin. Both players will be sidelined for at least the next four weeks, ruling them out of this weekend’s trip to West Brom as well as the forthcoming matches against Aston Villa and Brighton.

They could be available for the home game with Tottenham that follows the international break, although Almiron’s injury in particular is difficult to tie down to a detailed timeframe.

Wilson will not be involved in either this weekend’s game at the Hawthorns or the home meeting with Villa. It is hoped his hamstring problems will have healed sufficiently for him to play some part in the game at Brighton, a match that could have huge ramifications given the two teams are currently level on points, but for at least the next two gamess, Steve Bruce will have to come up with a way of reshaping his attack without his three leading forwards.

Who could come into the fray? And where would they play if Bruce opted to stick with the three-man forward line he has been fielding in recent weeks?


The Northern Echo:

The Brazilian is the only member of the attacking triumvirate that started on Saturday that will be available to face West Brom. Given his lack of success throughout his year-and-a-half as a Newcastle player, it could be argued that is not necessarily a good thing, but given the lack of alternatives, Joelinton will almost certainly start at the Hawthorns.

He is unlikely to appear as a central striker though, with Bruce having long since accepted he is ‘not a natural number nine’. He was shuffled to the right of the front three against Wolves, but has also been asked to cut in from the left this season. Either way, his record of three goals from 58 league appearances suggests he cannot be relied upon to suddenly start scoring regularly.


The Northern Echo:

In terms of being a natural finisher in and around the 18-yard box, Gayle is probably Newcastle’s best bet of finding the net in the next couple of matches. However, while the 31-year-old is the closest thing Newcastle have to a like-for-like replacement for Wilson, he is not as well suited to a fluid forward three.

Gayle really has to play through the middle, and while the quality of the opposition has to be taken into account, the fact he offered next to nothing when he was thrust back into the starting line-up at Chelsea last month is a concern. Bruce dropped him after that, but he might have to have a rethink given everything that has happened since. Gayle was Newcastle’s main striker at the end of last season, and scored four goals in eight post-lockdown games.


The Northern Echo:

It says much about Carroll’s diminished status that even with three key attackers missing, the 32-year-old is still unlikely to start this weekend. The Tynesider started the opening two matches of the season, but has featured in the starting line-up on just two other occasions, neither of which went well.

His ability to come through a full 90 minutes unscathed remains a concern, but the biggest thing going against Carroll is his tactical inflexibility. With the former England international in the side, you really have to play one way, and that is not the kind of high-energy, positionally-fluid style Bruce appears to want to develop.


The Northern Echo:

When Fraser came on for Almiron on Saturday, it was a like-for-like swap, with the Scotsman taking up the same ‘false nine’ position that had been vacated by the player he was replacing. Might that be a consideration from the outset this weekend?

Fraser did not really play as a striker during his time with Bournemouth, with most of his time spent on the wing, but while he will never be an old-fashioned target man, he boasts the attributes needed to play as a mobile, free-roaming attacker. Given a free role between two other forwards, the 27-year-old could mimic the kind of runs Almiron has been making recently.


If Bruce wants to pull a joker from the pack, he could turn to untried 18-year-old Anderson. It would be a bold call, but desperate times call for desperate measures and Newcastle’s coaching team have long felt the teenager could handle himself in the first team.

His involvement so far has been restricted to brief substitute appearances against Arsenal in both the league and FA Cup. At the very least, he should be considered as a possible wildcard from the bench if things are not going to plan against the Baggies.