Florian Lejeune has no future at Newcastle United whilst Steve Bruce remains
Florian Lejeune has been getting rave reviews from Spanish media and it was another quality display on Friday to add to the growing list.
A clean sheet for Alaves and the whoscored.com automated match ratings saw the Newcastle loan player rated as the Spanish club’s top defender, Joselu though getting man of the match with a great performance and the only goal of the game to beat Real Valladolid.
Last season Alaves were terrible in defence, conceded 59 in 38 games, the third worst in La Liga. This season with the help of Florian Lejeune, they have conceded 29 goals in 22 games so far, outside the top six Alaves have the fifth best defensive record of the other 14 clubs.
Steve Bruce decided not to recall Florian Lejeune in January from his loan spell.
With Lascelles, Dummett and Fernandez all having injury problems it surprised many people, plus Newcastle’s best midfielder Isaac Hayden having been pulled out of midfield on a number of occasions already this season to play as an emergency centre-back.
Just as importantly, probably even more so, there is the small matter of Newcastle United having the third worst defensive record in the Premier League this season, only West Brom and Crystal Palace (one more than NUFC after losing 2-0 to Leeds last night) having conceded more.
However, Steve Bruce preferring the pointless act of putting Christian Atsu in his Premier League squad for the rest of this season, rather than recalling Florian Lejeune from he loan spell, shouldn’t come as any surprise.
Steve Bruce made it clear last season that he wasn’t keen on having centre-backs who could also play a bit, all but totally sidelining both the Frenchman and Fabian Schar from his Premier League side.
With Florian Lejeune, Newcastle fans never saw him on the pitch again in the Premier League last season after what was arguably his finest 60 seconds in a black and white shirt.
The 21 January 2020 saw him come off the bench at Goodison Park, a woeful team performance and negative tactics from Steve Bruce seeing Newcastle absolutely battered by Everton who should have been four or five ahead, instead in a space of a minute in added time after the 90, Florian Lejeune hilariously scored twice and NUFC somehow emerged with a point.
Florian Lejeune had helped Newcastle United have the seventh best defensive record in both 2017/18 and 2018/19 under Rafa Benitez but last season that became the seventh worst in terms of goals conceded. Florian Lejeune making only four Premier League starts with the final one of those on 1 January 2020. That magnificent two goal effort at Everton in a brief sub appearance, the only time he got on the pitch again in the Premier League last season.
Lascelles and Fernandez were missing yet again on Saturday when Newcastle beat Southampton, Fabian Schar as well now out, almost certainly for the rest of the season. Dummett came on as sub and did his bit as an emergency centre-back, alongside Hayden, in holding on for the win but his injury record has been atrocious in recent years and sadly, you can have no reliance on the Geordie defender staying fit.
Newcastle United are now stuck with this Premier League squad, including Atsu, for the rest of the season.
It remains to be seen which central defenders, if any are available at Chelsea on Monday. Hopefully Ciaran Clark will be back, he missed Saturday after his partner went into labour ahead of the game.
As for Florian Lejeune, he turns 30 in May and will have only one year left of his Newcastle contract, his departure looks a certainty unless Steve Bruce has gone by then. As things stand at the minute as well, Fabian Schar is set to be out of contract at the end of June 2021.
In the modern game you need central defenders who can also play a bit, the likes of Florian Lejeune and Fabian Schar, at least one of these type as a minimum in the middle of your defence.
Fabian Schar has played a key role in the team playing a bit better football recently, bringing and playing the ball out of defence, rather than just the aimless long balls from the back we have become used to under Steve Bruce, instantly conceding possession.
Indeed, it was Fabian Schar who played an excellent ball to Allan Saint-Maximin that released ASM to set up Willock for the opening goal on Saturday.
I hope to see both Fabian Schar and Florian Lejeune playing for Newcastle United once again next season but whilst Bruce is still here I don’t think there’s any chance. Schar has only had his recent run in the team due to players out injured, Steve Bruce undoubtedly still preferring to play the likes of Fernandez and Lascelles if given the chance / choice.
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