Newcastle United Defence Dilemmas
Do we need another centre back? Who is our best left back? Is Fabricio Coloccini finished? Are the current defenders at the club good enough? Who partners Coloccini this season? Etc etc.
We have a player who narrowly missed out on winning the World Cup, new signing Daryl Janmaat. He’s a shoe-in at right back. He seems capable of going forward as well, replacing Mathieu Debuchy like for like. No out of position Charlie, no square pegs in round holes here. Unless he shows that he can’t handle the Premier League, we have our right back – end of.
As we move across the back line, things get more complicated. There are people that think Coloccini is on the wane and others that think he should still be the main man at centre back. I fall into both camps. He certainly is not the same Coloccini that held the defence together when we pushed for Europe in 2011/12. He certainly made a few mistakes last season. Howeverm he wasn’t alone.
There are few defenders in the world that could have covered our porous midfield last season. On many occasions, it was like giving the opposition free rein to attack at will, the result – defenders look poor, defenders make mistakes, defenders leak goals. It’s unfair to single out a defender or defenders, just because the side concedes too many goals, there can be other reasons.
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I’ve always been a great believer that if you get your midfield sorted, the defence and attack will take care of themselves, if the personnel are of a good standard. Last year our midfield was awful after Cabaye left, so there is no coincidence that as the midfield fell apart, the attack couldn’t score and the defence shipped goals for fun. If Colback/Sissoko and Tiote are deployed in front of the back four, then that should provide good enough protection for De Jong, Cabella, Riviere, Gouffran etc to bomb on without worrying about what’s happening behind them.
For now, unless the club are willing to spend £10m+, the consensus of opinion will show that Coloccini is the best we have at centre back. There are far bigger question marks over the others from me and many other supporters. This brings me to Mike Williamson. Often (unfairly) criticised by supporters for goals being conceded, when the perpetrator lies elsewhere, or overlooked because he isn’t ‘Geordie’ Steven Taylor. Sometimes Mike is slated for making a mistake that others would be forgiven more quickly for. Worse still, I don’t think he gets a fair crack of the whip from some for simply being – average. What’s wrong with average?
How would you describe Aaron Hughes? Andy O’Brien, Nikos Dabizas? No world beaters there. I’d label them as…average. Yet, these ‘average’ defenders helped Newcastle not only qualify for the Champions League, but alsoan epic run in it the season after. The one player signed during that time that you can’t call average was Jonathan Woodgate. Quite simply the best centre back in over 30 years at Newcastle, until he got injured. The more he played, the better he looked – and the better the defenders alongside him looked.
That’s what we need. For now, that man is Coloccini. Mike Williamson will perform well enough alongside him. However, Steven Taylor won’t and hasn’t. All this ‘Future Newcastle and England Captain’ talk has been doing the rounds since 2004. In 10 years, I haven’t seen him get any better and that’s before we get to the constant rubbish he spouts. It’s time for both parties to move on.
Mapou Yanga-M’Biwa is a tricky one, he’s had good games and bad, played out of position, played alongside the wrong partner, played well then dropped for someone else, etc. A decision has to be made. If he isn’t the answer, then like Taylor, time to move on.
The left back slot is trickier still. Is Haidara up to it? Is Dummett? I’m not so sure on either. The one thing is for certain, it isn’t Santon. This is a very specialised position were talking about and Santon isn’t even left footed. Left-backs are harder to find than right-backs and this is for me the next priority position at the club. I’d be more than happy to see a back four of Janmaat, Coloccini, Williamson and a new left-back start the season. Anything less for me won’t be good enough.
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