Monday saw Chancel Mbemba back in action, as DR Congo won 2-0 against Botswana in a friendly.

The Newcastle defender and his international teammates are at a training camp in Morocco and that is where the friendly was hosted on neutral ground, in Rabat.

Bournemouth’s Benik Afobe and QPR’s Yeni N’Gbakoto got the goals (the Newcastle defender got one assist) but it was Newcastle’s Chancel Mbemba wearing the captain’s armband at the final whistle, with usual skipper Gabriel Zakuani having been subbed.

The training camp and friendly are in preparation for a crucial game this Saturday (10 June), when DR Congo have an African Cup of Nations qualifier against Congo.

Back on Tyneside, some players look definitely on their way out: such as Vurnon Anita, Grant Hanley, Achraf Lazaar, Yoan Gouffran, Sammy Ameobi and so on.

Whilst others such as Jonjo Shelvey, Dwight Gayle, Ciaran Clark, Matt Ritchie, and Isaac Hayden, look nailed on to be forming a backbone of the team/squad as United step up to the Premier League.

Chancel Mbemba is one of those in between.

Recovering from injury, Mbemba missed the opening day defeat to Fulham but then played six of the next seven Championship matches.

A nightmare display from Mbemba and Lascelles saw a 2-0 home defeat to Wolves, Chancel Mbemba scoring an own goal, and either (or both) could have been dropped.

Maybe the captaincy saved Jamaal Lascelles but it was the DR Congo international who was dropped, only making one further Championship start in the next six and a half months, when Rafa made wholesale changes against Blackburn at home to rest players for the League Cup quarter-final at Hull.

Ciaran Clark took his chance superbly and was arguably Newcastle’s player of the season, alongside him though Jamaal Lascelles had a very up and down season, often struggling with a lack of pace.

Despite this, Chancel Mbemba wasn’t even mentioned and even when Newcastle’s form dipped after Christmas, the former Anderlecht player who had been one of the few to do himself justice in Newcastle’s relegation season, didn’t even get a look in.

Often he didn’t make the bench and yet even more surprisingly the journalists never pressed Rafa on why Mbemba wasn’t getting a chance, especially in light of Lascelles struggling.

Then in mid-March, Chancel Mbemba came out with a slightly off the wall offering.

Chancel Mbemba personal statement via his Twitter account – 17 March 2017:

“Despite my minimal playing time this season I am here and not giving up.

“I continue to train ardently and seriously and I will not give up until I find my place in the team.

“My wish is to come back stronger than ever and satisfy you, my fans, as I was able to do last season in the Premier League.

“Ecclesiastes 7: 8:

‘Better is the end of a thing than its beginning, better a patient mind than a haughty spirit’.

Injuries opened the door for Chancel Mbemba late on and he started five of the final seven Championship matches, including scoring his first Newcastle goal on the last day of the season, helping United clinch the title.

As he got his match fitness back in those late matches, Chancel Mbemba really started to look the part again, and many Newcastle fans wondered just how he would have done if paired with Ciaran Clark for much of the season.

Rafa Benitez’ decision to sideline Mbemba for so long, took on a further edge when it emerged that Jamaal Lascelles had been ‘playing through the pain barrier’ with an injury for the final five months of the season. The odd game when he (Lascelles) was paired with Grant Hanley making particularly uncomfortable viewing as they had zero pace between them.

Like Ciaran Clark, as well as being capable of being a very promising defender, Chancel Mbemba is also quick and comfortable on the ball, two massive positives in the Premier League.

Maybe he will be sold this summer but I hope Chancel Mbemba gets another chance, playing alongside Ciaran Clark we could have a very good Premier League partnership, especially when pace/mobility is so important in the top tier.

Newcastle though have been linked with a number of centre-backs, with Florian Lejeune still said to be a target, whilst NUFC allegedly wouldn’t meet Sporting Lisbon’s demands, with Ruben Semedo’s move to Villarreal confirmed on Tuesday.

(All contributions from Newcastle fans welcome, send articles (as well as ideas/suggestions) to [email protected])

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  • Rich Lawson

    Definitly deserves another chance in the prem’ particually as none of the defenders we’re currently linked with seem any better ?

    • 1957

      You’re right, at least Mbemba has played in the PL and didn’t look out of place, There is clearly something Benitez doesn’t like about Chancel though so I expect he will be on his way and for all the talk of a new CB I expect we will start the season with Jamaal and Clark. I see according to the Chronicle we are now in competition with Arsenal and Spurs for Lejeune, so we can write him off.

  • The Vicar

    I can’t see it either. Mbemba is clearly our best CB from what I’ve seen. That said Benitez sees these guys every day.

    No one ever agrees 100% with what a manager does, even the best. For example I was horrified when SBR decided Solano was not good enough later on in his time as manager.

    • NUFCDan

      I can see Mbemba being an important player back in the PL, if we play Lascelles against teams like City or Liverpool with pace up front he’ll get slaughtered. The constant links with other CBs seems to suggest Rafa doesn’t fancy him.

    • Cuh736

      So now Mbemba is better than Clark?

      And you do know even for his national team he plays in midfield rather than at CB

      • The Vicar

        I think Clark was very good last season. This was a big surprise to me as when he was at Villa or playing for the Republic he always seemed to have a “Titus moment” in him.

        I’m delighted with the way Clark is working out but would still prefer Mbemba.

        I agree with our mouse friend, in that if we sell Mbemba we need to try and locate our brain sell (note the singular).

  • MichaelMaximusMoose

    If they sell Mbemba somebody wants their head seen to, he`s the best & youngest central defender we have he`s also the most athletic

    • Cuh736

      Best – Lascelles

  • Toon Army AZ

    Mbemba is certainly PL-proven, but for some reason not Rafa-proven. Of all our center backs, he might be the best with the ball at his feet. Worth more on the roster than for his potential transfer fee, in my opinion. Just need to work out the trust issues with Rafa.

    • Cuh736

      PL proven, over one season? Really?!

  • Damon Horner

    Mbemba isn’t in the team it is the fault of many others…

    We form excuses and build egos when it comes to our favourites and then complain when the same players drop their level and have many excuses and hide behind their egos.

    Maybe Mbemba being less prominent might not be a personal vendetta…? The guys far from flawless like every other defender on our books.