Garry Monk had a year at the club, and he still couldn’t work out his best XI. Players were being swapped all over the shop towards the end of the season and it didn’t help, even the best players were left out at times. This season Thomas Christiansen has been through a few different options in most areas, but finally I feel like he’s very close to knowing his best XI, with a few variations.
It’s become quite clear that a few players aren’t going to be involved any time soon. Mateusz Klich isn’t looking like an option currently, due to reasons more off the field than on it and others just can’t force a start. Hadi Sacko, Connor Shaughnessy, Vurnon Anita, Cameron Borthwick-Jackson and Andy Lonergan are all players who are more used to starting from the bench and filling in when others are out. The back five seem pretty set if all fit, the goalkeeper and centre-backs have been rotated but the form was very poor, and now we have got through that it looks very likely that Liam Cooper and Pontus Jansson will be the first-choice pairing from now on. Felix Wiedwald is probably the clear number one, we keep clean sheets with him in goals, we don’t with Lonergan. The full back areas are pretty straight forward, when fit Gaetano Berardi plays left-back and Luke Ayling right-back.
The midfield is pretty much sorted now as well. Ronaldo Vieira anchors the five, with Kalvin Phillips playing more advanced. The pair are linking up well although I do think another option for the advanced role wouldn’t do any harm. I think Matty Klich would be perfect but that ship has sailed by the looks of things. Eunan O’Kane is more than capable when he’s in form but he does need to raise his game, his dip in form was one of the worst and unfortunately for him in left the door open for Ronaldo Vieira, a player who is head and shoulders above anyone in the central midfield role at the club, and Thomas Christiansen couldn’t ignore the performances from him once he got his chance. In front of the Samu Saiz plays the attacking midfield role, no doubt about that. Gjanni Alioksi id the first choice right-sided player and when fit, Pablo Hernandez normally starts on the left. Pawel Cibicki has now come into the frame and is an option, as is Stuart Dallas, the variations are great to have.
In the forward position it does get somewhat complicated. So far this season we have had Chris Wood, Kemar Roofe, Caleb Ekuban and Pierre-Michel Lasogga all as the first choice striker. As it stands its Kemar Roofe, and when fit his competition comes from Caleb Ekuban in my opinion. Lasogga will be fit soon and is a very good option to have but we need to see a bit more of the hard work from the big German forward, Caleb Ekuban and Kemar Roofe don’t have any issues in that department. The options are very good in this department but we seem to link up the best with Roofe in that role, dropping in and running the channels. With form and injuries sure to come and go this won’t be the team for the rest of the season but it does feel like we are beginning to settle, with others being able to come in and make a difference, which will be needed over the busy weeks ahead. You can safely say that eight of the players are on the team sheet every week at the moment.