Jamaal Lascelles has done a great job for Newcastle United, both on and off the pitch.
From the moment he stood up and confronted his teammates in the dressing room during the relegation season, the fans suddenly took notice of a player who had hardly kicked a ball up to that point in the Premier League.
Thankfully, Jamaal Lascelles showed that he had the ability to back up that character, that willingness to tell the other players that the squad were letting the fans down.
Last season showed the captain’s importance to the team, the stats showing that with him in the side, Newcastle were a far better team.
Now it is that difficult second season, made all the more difficult, some would say all but impossible, by Mike Ashley’s refusal to back the manager with essential signings to lift the quality of the squad.
In the international break, Jamaal Lascelles has been talking about the season so far and doing his job of trying to build up the confidence of players and fans.
However, you can sometimes stray a little bit too far, when trying to put a positive spin on things.
After five games in, Lascelles says ‘We have played well in all the games so far, we’ve been positive and been on the front foot.’
I don’t think you would find any Newcastle fan who would agree with that statement.
The team were really poor against both Cardiff and Forest, the Tottenham match saw Newcastle play pretty well overall and deserve something. Whilst Chelsea and Man City the team played well defensively but showed next to nothing going forward, reminding us of the shortage of quality options Rafa has available.
As for getting ‘on the front foot’, even in the Forest and Cardiff matches Newcastle sat back against a couple of poor teams.
It isn’t all doom and gloom but in the upcoming matches Newcastle need to hopefully get their best players on the pitch, such as Shelvey and Ritchie, and really try to get on the front foot. Not necessarily expecting them to dominate possession but we do need to be trying to close down and pressure further up the pitch, which led to some of our best performances and results last season – against the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea and Man Utd at St James Park.
Arsenal haven’t had the best of starts themselves, so Saturday is an ideal time to kick-off our season.
Jamaal Lascelles talking to NUFC TV:
“A little rest won’t harm anyone, it [the international break) is a chance to refresh, recharge the batteries, and go into the Arsenal game positive and start the season properly from there.”
“Things haven’t really gone our way at times and if you go back to the Tottenham game, we didn’t get the result we wanted, but we took a lot of positives from it.
“The Cardiff game – we know it was a bad game and going down to 10 men didn’t help, but we managed to get a point.
“Then, of course, Chelsea and Manchester City, we have had a really difficult start to the season.
“We have played well in all the games so far, we’ve been positive and been on the front foot.
“Against Chelsea and Manchester City it was close, so there’s no reason why we should start panicking or anything.
“A really tough start as we knew it would be but the important thing as well is the goals-conceded column.
“It’s not nice to concede goals but a lot of teams this year will go to Man City, or even when at home to Tottenham or Chelsea, they will let in three, four or five goals.
“I don’t like being defeated and I don’t like conceding goals, but in the long run, goal difference can make a big difference in where you finish in the league.
“Conceding two goals to Manchester City, Chelsea and Tottenham, you can be quite pleased with that, because other teams will struggle against them.”
The training ground ‘incident’ with Matt Ritchie:
“As everybody knows, some people when they get a sniff of anything and they’ll make it into a much bigger deal than it is.
“This is sport and every sportsman will say the same – a group of men on the training pitch, with adrenaline flying, there’s going to be…I wouldn’t say altercations, but there are going to be arguments.
“We have got such a passionate team, we all want to do so well players will speak their voice and will get stuck in. Arguments will happen, but in terms of of the pitch stuff, it’(things that happen in training) will never change anything personally. It will always stay on the pitch and you shake hands afterwards.
“I think that is a winning mentality, because if you don’t care and you don’t say anything, or you don’t want to put your foot in, then you are going to get relegated.
“Things will happen on the training pitch where players will fall out but in terms of it affecting our team spirit, and me not liking somebody or someone else not liking somebody else, it won’t change that.”