Alan Pardew finally gave in to our formation wishes. Thanks to the stellar forward play of Papiss Cisse, Hatem Ben Arfa, and (until very recently) Demba Ba, we have had plenty to praise. But the birth of "the Trinity" has coincided with an injury crisis for the rest of the team. With so many players in unfamiliar roles, it hasn't been clear what Pardew has in mind for the midfield and defense.
One of the bigger mysteries going into the summer is Jonas Gutierrez. The 4-3-3 doesn't seem like a great fit for a wide midfielder - especially one who only scores against Wolves. His emergency stint at left back reminded everyone of his woeful outings in defense for Argentina. During the pre-Cisse days, Jonas was sometimes effective spearheading a three-man midfield. That may still be an option, especially with the club involved in four competitions next season.
Newcastle has been linked with several central midfielders over the last few weeks, most recently Gylfi Sigurdsson. Though only 22, Sigurdsson may never be more in demand, which would make him a distinctly un-Newcastle signing. With plenty of other needs, especially in defense, it may be better to keep Danny Guthrie and hope Mehdi Abeid and Haris Vuckic are ready for more playing time. Vuckic, in particular, could develop into a similar sort of player to Sigurdsson if he puts his injury woes behind him.
Assuming no major signings - never a bad idea where Newcastle is concerned - Jonas will likely be converted into a holding midfielder in the 4-3-3. The injury-laden squad has forced him elsewhere, but against West Brom and Swansea, we have seen what he offers in the role. He reads the game well (5 interceptions in each match), can pick out a pass (watch the buildup to Cisse's first goal against West Brom), and with his running and penchant to draw fouls, is superb at controlling the tempo of a match.
Gutierrez can also help draw the best out of Yohan Cabaye and Cheick Tiote. His defensive responsibility allows Cabaye to push up to the edge of the 18-yard box. From there, Cabaye is ideally positioned to take a long-range shot or split the defense with a pass. He provides a perpetual outlet for a ball-winning midfielder like Tiote, and covering support for Tiote's occasional forays into attack.
Even with the move to 4-3-3, there will still be a regular place in the side for Tyneside's favorite superhero. Let's hope he decides to take his mask on Newcastle's European odyssey next season - just in case he needs it.