With Doctor Evil apparently contemplating a switch to 4-4-2, the thorny issue of what to do with Captain Kev resurfaces. Just as Parker posed selection problems because managers refused to use him in his best role - as a holding midfielder instead of a midfield general - so Nolan has now emerged as our star player who potentially stands in the way of playing the best "shape".
To play 4-4-2, using Baldock up top alongside Cole, we need two wide men in midfield. That would presumably be Taylor on the left and either Faubert or Bentley on the right. So we come down to two midfield berths to fill. One of those has to be a holding midfielder which would come down to a straight fight between Noble and Diop, unless Allardyce fancies Collison in that role all of a sudden. So now there is only one place to fill and three players chasing it - Nolan, Lansbury and Collison.
Now, if you are looking for a mobile, box to box player with good vision and a great passing range, would that man be Nolan? There will be a Lansbury lobby based on his flair and a Collison lobby based on his energy and drive, but who would be in the Nolan camp? His strength is in and around the opposition box, it is not in covering acres of ground and pinging passes all over the park. Yes you want Nolan arriving onto pulled back crosses from the flank, poking through balls from the edge of the penalty area and poaching in and around the six yard box, but is his game really opening up the opposition defence from deeper positions? If so, he hasn't shown it since he donned the Claret & Blue.
It seems to me that we are still trying to blend ingredients that don't truly compliment each other. Playing Baldock logically means dropping Nolan, but Allardyce aint going to do that in a hurry. Play Nolan, and the situation cries out for 4-3-3 but, outside of set pieces, our wide men do not offer enough of a goal threat when that formation is played. How many of Taylor's 23 goals for Bolton came from open play? Bentley, meanwhile, has only scored 18 league goals in his entire career! And Faubert? Well he pushes Bentley close with a paltry 14.
Now, given Cole isn't exactly a goal machine, you start to wonder where the goals will come from when we set up 4-3-3 if Nolan is misfiring. Nolan's 12 in the Prem last season and 29 from 85 games for Newcastle overall show why you need him in the opposition penalty area, but will 4-4-2 allow this without leaving us horribly exposed when the opposition get the ball? You solve one problem by drafting Baldock into the team and you create another because then Nolan is either left out or withdrawn from the area where he is most effective.
Doctor Evil is on the horns of a dilemma. It will be intriguing to see how he tries to resolve it!