Can Newcastle find room for both De Jong and Wijnaldum?

Newcastle United

Following Sunday’s draw against Southampton, there may only be space for one in Steve McClaren's starting XI.

How similar are they?

In one word: very. Siem de Jong and Georginio Wijnaldum are inventive, attacking midfielders who have the ability to create and score goals in the ‘number 10’ role.

It’s no coincidence that both were captains of their respective former clubs, Ajax (De Jong) and PSV (Wijnaldum), as they exerted control from the middle of the park, each leading their teams to the Eredivisie title in the role.

Both like to see a lot of the ball and there has been doubt cast over whether they can play in the same side with such a similar mindset.

Have they played together yet?

Both have shown glimpses of their obvious individual talent this summer but they are still awaiting their chance to establish what could become a formidable partnership.

During pre-season, the pair didn't share the pitch until the final warm-up game against Borussia Monchengladbach, and even then it was only for the final 15 minutes as Newcastle went down 1-0 to their visitors.

Against Southampton, De Jong replaced Wijnaldum with nine minutes to go. The latter went on to scoop the man of the match award with a debut goal, whilst De Jong failed to make an impact in his cameo.

So what has Steve McClaren said?

Despite the lack of time given to experiment with both together, new boss McClaren has stated he is open to the idea.

Speaking with The Chronicle, the 54-year-old said: “They (Wijnaldum and De Jong) are two quality players. People are probably are wondering, ‘Can they play in the same team?’ I think you saw in the last 20 minutes against Gladbach that, yes, they can.”

McClaren dropped a hint, however, that it may be Wijnaldum who may have to sacrifice his central role if he is to accommodate the two of them: “Gini can play in any position around the midfield area. Sometimes we say our system does not really matter … We are going to look at other systems too”.

When should we expect to see them play together?

With trips to Swansea, Manchester United, and a visit of Arsenal to come in the next three fixtures, it may be the case that there is not a place in the team for both Siem De Jong and Georginio Wijnaldum for a little while, barring injuries or a major shuffle of the pack.

McClaren set his stall out on Sunday with two holding midfielders protecting a new-look back four, along with two wingers in the form of Moussa Sissoko and Gabriel Obertan. This allowed Wijnaldum to see most of the ball in the central area, with Papiss Cisse to aim for up front.

It’s likely to be a more defensive-minded system in place given the tough opposition ahead, with hopes of a counter-attack coming from the wide areas.

Patience will be key for De Jong as he is clearly second string to Wijnaldum after his stirring performance against The Saints. The 26-year-old will get a chance should Newcastle need a goal and it is up to him to prove that he can co-exist with Wijnaldum when the opportunity arises.

Until then, fans can only dream of the attacking brand of football that both players could bring to St. James' Park this season.

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