How Newcastle could line up under Antonio Conte if Saudis axe Steve Bruce and lure Italian

Newcastle United: What will the takeover mean?

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Newcastle United could change hands within hours after the Premier League apparently gave the go-ahead for a Saudi-based consortium to buy the club. Public Investment Fund (PIF) have reportedly agreed a £300million deal for the Magpies after walking away from talks 18 months ago.

If the deal does indeed go through, manager Steve Bruce could be axed after a dismal start to the season.

The north east side are yet to win a game in the Premier League this campaign and are second bottom in the table.

If Bruce is given the chop, the new owners could turn to Antonio Conte to take the helm. Express Sport takes a look at how Newcastle could line-up under the energetic Italian.

Goalkeeper – Dubravka

Newcastle’s goalkeeping situation has been up in the air all season, with Martin Dubravka ruled out with a foot injury.

Freddie Woodman started the season between the sticks, before Karl Darlow returned to the fold after recovering from COVID-19.

 

 

Both keepers have looked shaky as Newcastle have conceded a joint-high 16 Premier League goals in their first seven matches.

Conte would want to get Dubravka back to fitness as soon as possible. The Slovakia international is Newcastle’s best keeper by a long way and the Magpies would do much better with him between the sticks.

Defence – Schar, Lascelles, Fernandez

Conte would likely opt for a 3-5-2 formation and initially make Newcastle hard to beat as he looks to reverse the team’s fortunes.

Captain Jamaal Lascelles will be guaranteed a place in the back three, as will Federico Fernandez.

The third spot is up for grabs between Fabian Schar and Ciaran Clark. A back three would require the defensive unit to be comfortable in possession and, for that reason, Conte could well opt for Schar, who fans would argue is a better footballer than the Republic of Ireland international.

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Midfield – Murphy, Hayden, Shelvey, Willock, Ritchie

Conte would likely look to push his wing-backs forward to help Newcastle become more of an attacking threat while still expecting them to tighten up out of possession.

Jacob Murphy could line-up on the right, with Matt Ritchie being used on the left.

Murphy was involved in 15 goals in 39 Championship appearances for Sheffield Wednesday the season before last so certainly knows where the back of the net is.

Ritchie has the added bonus of offering a threat from his sweetly-struck set-piece deliveries and will give his side a much-needed edge.

Conte will want to pack his midfield tightly to ensure Newcastle aren’t overrun in possession and will want to get Jonjo Shelvey fit quickly after the former Liverpool man sustained a calf injury on the opening weekend of the season.

Shelvey is one of Newcastle’s most talented players and can turn defence into attack with his excellent passing and shooting abilities.

The England international will line-up in a midfield three alongside Isaac Hayden and Joe Willock.

Hayden would protect the back three by challenging for the ball and tracking back, while Willock will have more of a license to push forward and rediscover the scoring touch which saw him find the back of the net eight times in 14 games during his loan spell from Arsenal last season.

Forwards – Saint-Maximin, Wilson

Allan Saint-Maximin is Newcastle’s best player by a country mile so Conte’s first job will be to tie him down to a new long-term contract.

If the Frenchman hadn’t been involved this season, Newcastle’s position would be even more perilous.

Saint-Maximin is a constant menace to opposition backlines and can embarrass even the best defenders in the Premier League.

He is calling out to link-up with a player who can put the ball in the back of the net and, in Callum Wilson, Newcastle already have that player.

Wilson is another player who is currently on the sidelines and is injury-plagued history could be a worry for the new boss.

If Wilson could stay fit under Conte, Newcastle would quickly move away from the bottom three and compete with some of the better teams in the league.

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