Newcastle United v Tottenham Hotspur: The Matt Ritchie options explored for under-fire Steve Bruce
Since Matt Ritchie and Steve Bruce had a bust-up during training, the Scotsman hasn’t appeared for Newcastle United with a vital game against Tottenham Hotspur coming up.
After an abysmal run of two wins in 20 matches, Bruce will be looking to change his fortunes, by perhaps changing his system.
From replacing Paul Dummett at left-back, to playing on the left-wing, the versatile 31-year old would be able to slot into multiple positions.
We take a look at the THREE positions he could play and who could be dropped in his place.
Left-back or left wing-back
If the home side decide to play with wing-backs, Ritchie could offer the perfect balance for that position with his ability to defend and be able to get forward.
On average, the former Bournemouth man has averaged over five crosses a game, which is more than any of the full-backs in the squad.
Alongside the likes of Ryan Fraser and Miguel Almiron, Bruce’s side will be able to provide more width when going forward as the left-sided players can interchange.
More crosses gives players like Andy Carroll a chance to attack the ball and offer a threat with the 32-year-old holding an impressive record of 50 aerial duels won in only 16 appearances.
Defensively, whilst Ritchie has played, his side have conceded less than one goal per game, with Jamal Lewis averaging 1.6 and Dummett averaging one.
As well as his impressive crossing statistics, Ritchie is shown to be someone that can move the team up the pitch as shown by an average of over 10 forward passes a game.
This attacking progression is something the Magpies have lacked this year with fans struggling to cope with the consistent negatively styled tactics.
The Scotsman has more forward passes than any winger playing for the Toon. To put it in comparison, Fraser has a whopping 39 less in double the amount of games Ritchie has played in.
Ritchie also carries a threat from set-pieces, allowing United to get more men in the box and give them a chance of winning with less possession.
He has also created two big chances this season despite having less than 10 appearances, with all of the other attacking midfield players just edging past his amount even with playing twice as much.
As well as playing on the left, Ritchie naturally plays on the right side of midfield, allowing him to cut onto his favoured left-foot.
Last time out in Newcastle’s horrifying 3-0 defeat to Brighton, Joelinton started down the right-hand side where United had a significantly low concentration of play.
Joelinton’s dispossession rate of 1.39 per game may show one example of why the Magpies possession is so low.
Comparing that to Ritchie, who has nearly 10x less in just over half the amount of games played by Joelinton.
Ritchie’s defensive balance also gives him an advantage over the likes of Allan Saint-Maximin with more clearances, interceptions and aerial duels won.