Most people will recall Sam’s formation from his days at Bolton was usually a 4-3-3, they played in a more direct style and they played it well. He has played that system but he’s also played in a 4-4-2 and with the players he’s got, he is able to adapt to formations and systems.
Starting at the back, Shay Given, who I know well from my time with the Irish squad, is one of the best goalkeepers around. Steven Taylor at centre-half is also likely to get on the end of things in the opposition box, plays with great enthusiasm, with David Rozehnal, who has played most of the games.
They’ve had injuries and Stephen Carr, a player we all know well, is out and a lad called Habib Beye has been playing at right-back. Options at left-back include Jose Enrique, who they signed from Villareal and Charles N’Zogbia, a very talented player who can play anywhere down the left. He's generally as a more forward player, left-sided midfielder or left winger, but has played left-back for them this season.
They are strong across midfield and when you think Emre came on in the last game and was very influential, scored a goal and set up Michael Owen’s and he hasn’t been getting a game, it shows the quality they have. Nicky Butt has been vital for them in midfield, back to the quality he showed a United.
In the wide areas it’s James Milner, a fine crosser of the ball and in the forward areas they have bundles of talent and I suppose the biggest problem when you have the likes of Viduka, Owen, Martins and Smith is finding the right formation to suit them best.
So far Sam has been able to do that although he’s had to make changes as well, whether it's been through injuries or because of the numbers and I think it will be like that for a while, but most people are confident once they get into a pattern of play it will become a fortress there.
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Chris Hughton's regular assessment of our forthcoming opponents - next up, Newcastle United at St James' Park on Monday night.ST JAMES' PARK is always a tough place to go and one thing you can guarantee is a vocal support from the home crowd, a full house and it’s obvious why Sam Allardyce went there in the summer – the potential and stature of the club. With the changes he’s made and the changes in personnel, I’m sure they will be satisfied with the start they’ve made to the season.