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Opinion

Javier Manquillo – Now one of the first names on Newcastle United team sheet

4 weeks ago
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When Javier Manquillo signed for Newcastle in the summer of 2017 for £4.5million, like many other Newcastle fans, I was very sceptical.

I knew the player from his brief, underwhelming spell at Liverpool and equally uninspiring loan at rivals Sunderland, but Rafa Benitez wanted him.

It seemed as though Manquillo was brought in as cover, being able to play in both full-back positions.

Given his record in the Premier League, it seemed as though his appearances would be sporadic at best. Despite Benitez claiming that Manquillo had a ‘point to prove’, surely few Newcastle fans could have foreseen his development, displacing DeAndre Yedlin as our first choice right-back and emerging as a trusted, reliable player.

Newcastle’s clean sheet away at Everton on Saturday was Manquillo’s third in seven starts this season. The full-back putting in an impressive performance that saw one of Everton’s key danger men, Richarlison, limited to shots from distance and a header that lacked strength. Considering a large percentage of Everton’s play goes through Richarlison, it speaks volumes for Manquillo’s effectiveness in suppressing the Brazilian.

Certainly, there have been many uninspiring performances from Newcastle this season when the entire team, including Manquillo, have been uninspiring.

However, in many games when Newcastle have defended resolutely and been hard to break down, Javier Manquillo has often been one of those standing up to be counted.

It seems as though Manquillo is more suited to playing as a full-back in a flat back four, rather than a wing-back in a formation with five defenders. He is very adaptable though and Rafa Benitez in particular trusted Manquillo as a wing-back in his preferred five man defence.

This season, Newcastle United have kept a clean sheet four times in their twenty one Premier League matches, with three of those coming in Manquillo’s seven starts. Those clean sheets helping to bring wins away to West Ham, away to Palace and away to Everton, each time Newcastle playing four at the back (0-0 home to Liverpool is the fourth PL clean sheet, when Javier Manquillo wasn’t involved).

Newcastle’s other options at the right-back spot led to Benitez, and now Bruce, relying upon the Spaniard.

DeAndre Yedlin, whilst providing pace and energy as a wing-back, is a liability defensively and Emil Krafth has been largely uninspiring since his move to Newcastle.

This has led to the vast majority of Newcastle United fans I think, including me, seeing Javier Manquillo as Newcastle’s most complete right-back at present.

One goal that always springs to mind which highlights Manquillo’s defensive capabilities and his contributions in attack, is Salomon Rondon’s goal vs Huddersfield. It was Manquillo who clipped the great ball down the line to Perez, Manquillo who showed energy and ambition to offer Perez support, and Manquillo who provided a brilliant cross for Rondon to finish.

One criticism of the Spaniard early in his Newcastle career was that he was lightweight and too weak defensively to be a solution for the long-term. In 21 games in the 17/18 season, he helped keep four clean sheets and in the 18/19 season it was three clean sheets in 18 games. Whilst it is the entire Newcastle team’s job to keep clean sheets, Manquillo has to accept some of the criticism as a key member of the defence.

Manquillo’s improvement has been clear over the past couple of the seasons, leading to his contract renewal in June 2020. Last season, Javier Manquillo helped keep six clean sheets in 21 games, a better return than his first two seasons. Then in those seven PL starts this season, another three clean sheets.

The evidence of his development at Newcastle United is there for all to see. If Bruce decides to continue with a back four, which he should, I can’t see Javier Manquillo losing his spot between now and the end of the season, injuries permitting

Newcastle’s performance against Everton was nothing short of brilliant, the team defensively resolute and offensively threatening.

Looking forward to the game against Palace on Tuesday night, Newcastle fans will be looking for more of the same.

When fit, the likes of Allan Saint Maximin, Callum Wilson, Miguel Almiron and Isaac Hayden are amongst the first names on the team sheet, Javier Manquillo should now be seen as another to automatically add to that list of key players.

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