Swansea City boss Michael Laudrup faces selection headache
MICHAEL Laudrup has a conundrum in midfield this week as Swansea City plot how to humble Newcastle United.
And though there are no injury problems out wide, the Swansea boss faces a further selection headache when it comes to choosing his wingers.
Laudrup has an unwanted concern at the heart of his team after Ki Sung-Yueng, one of the star performers of the season so far at the Liberty, picked up a hamstring injury at Southampton last week.
Ki will miss the trip to St James' Park as a result, meaning there will be an enforced reshuffle in central midfield.
Laudrup does not have to make changes on the flanks, but he has a big call to make out there nevertheless.
The Dane admits Nathan Dyer has been left feeling a little downhearted because of his lack of game-time in recent weeks.
And after his latest bright display as a substitute at St Mary's, Dyer is pushing hard for a recall.
The problem for Laudrup is how to fit him in.
Pablo Hernandez has started to look more at home in English football in recent weeks, although he was one of a number of Swansea players who struggled to make an impact at Southampton.
Laudrup persuaded Swansea's money men to splash out a club-record fee of £5.55 million on Hernandez, so it is a safe bet that he is going to feature regularly in his team.
On the other flank in recent times has been Wayne Routledge, who has been one of the success stories of the Laudrup era to date.
The 27-year-old has produced comfortably his best run of form since joining Swansea — and perhaps the best of his career in the top flight — though he too was unable to have much of an influence last weekend.
Dyer stole the headlines at Southampton — albeit with a big helping hand from the home side's creaky defence — when he produced the precise finish which salvaged a point for Swansea on a day when they did not produce their best.
Three players into two positions does not go — but Laudrup admits that starting the trio is not inconceivable.
Brendan Rodgers played Routledge in a more central role on a handful of occasions last season, and it seems Swansea's followers could see something similar under Laudrup.
"Playing all three is a possibility," he says.
"Pablo, and definitely Wayne, can play as a second striker."
Deploying Routledge more centrally could solve two problems in one for Laudrup, who would then have his three gifted wide players on the pitch at the same time and would also have filled the gap which has opened in the absence of Ki.
Realistically, though, Laudrup seems more likely to go with three more recognised central midfielders for what is bound to a be stern examination on Tyneside.
The likes of Cheik Tiote — who returns from suspension — Hatem Ben Arfa and Demba Ba will want to carry the game to Swansea, and Laudrup seems likely to go for a safety-first approach.
That means that once again, one of the wingers will almost certainly start the game sat alongside their manager in the away dugout.
If it is Dyer, Laudrup concedes, the 24-year-old is likely to be sporting a frown.
"I've talked to Nathan and he is disappointed (about his lack of recent opportunities), but I would have been worried if he said he was happy," Laudrup adds.
Dyer began the season as a fixture in Laudrup's team. He scored two goals in the opening-day romp at Queens Park Rangers and began all four of Swansea's games before Hernandez arrived at the club.
Since then it has been a different story, with Dyer beginning four more fixtures but coming on as a substitute in five.
Swansea are lucky to have such a fine attacking weapon sat on the bench, but Dyer will want to start more consistently than he has in the last couple of months.
Laudrup's challenge is to keep him, plus Hernandez and Routledge, happy despite the fact when all three are available, one of them is unlikely to make the starting XI.
Right now Dyer is the one missing out most often — and Laudrup must ensure he does not get frustrated.
Dyer, after all, is his second-top goalscorer after Michu with four strikes to his name already.
"Players who do not play have to be disappointed, but it's important that doesn't turn into frustration," Laudrup concedes.
"Nathan is training well and knows that even if he does not start, he can come on.
"He played well (when he last started) at Anfield and he knows I have a lot of confidence in him."
Swansea have scored a healthy number of goals so far under Laudrup, but he will struggle to ignore Dyer's strike-rate nevertheless.
"There are three players in that (wide) position but when Nathan scores goals it makes it more difficult for me," he says.
"But then again we have so many games that there will be some when he is starting and the others are on the bench."
Dyer might expect one of those to come this Saturday given what went on at Southampton.
He could not have done much more to stake his claim last weekend — but then he has not done much wrong all season.