The need for another centre-back has been a topic of debate for some time at Newcastle.
Even with the signing of Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa and news that Fabricio Coloccini looks like staying one more season at least, some supporters still see the need for more quality.
James Perch looks like he’s being moved on and Mike Williamson may well follow, which does put us in position where one more is needed, but the names most people seem to be hell bent on don’t make that much sense in terms of really strengthening.
Yanga-Mbiwa and Coloccini would be my first choice partnership at centre back. Steven Taylor, while he has his critics, is in my opinion a more than adequate third option once he has quality beside him to take instruction from.
That makes signing another quality centre back difficult, especially if we’re looking for a clear step up in quality from likes of Williamson or Perch. There’s not many genuinely good centre backs who will be content as fourth, or even third, choice.
Add to that the fact that squad-wise, another right-footed centre back who can only play in that position doesn’t really help us out all that much, unless of course we are absoloutely plagued by injuries in that specific position.
With Massadio Haidara being the only naturally left-footed defender in our first team squad, surely it would make more sense to sign another left-footed player? At this stage of my argument, many will point to Davide Santon as our first choice left back. Fair point.
However, while I personally rate Santon, it’s no secret that his attacking strengths drastically outweigh his defensive ones. In the long-term, I would actually like to see Santon become a midfield option, at worst one of our main versatile utility players.
Would it not be a much better option in terms of both first team and squad strengthening to sign a quality first team left back who is naturally left-footed, strong defensively, and has the ability to, as well as experience of, playing at centre back?
This would solve a number of issues in my opinion. The signing can be genuine quality as he will get proper game time and not be looked at as simply fourth choice centre back, and will strengthen us defensively at left back going forward.
As well as that, it will provide an existing squad option to fill the void if and when Coloccini does leave, until such time as a top quality replacement is signed, rather than simply losing Coloccini and being left stuck if we don’t fork out for top quality replacement.
In terms of Santon, as mentioned previously, with Perch being moved on, Danny Simpson too, leaving no natural full back backup at right back, as well as needing more potent attacking threat on the wings, even if that be from the bench, Santon can fill all roles.
People will also point to Yanga-Mbiwa as an option for left back, which he filled well in fairness, but at the end of the day, it’s taking one of your first choice centre backs out of a partnership to fill a role he isn’t natural too, a right-footed option too.
Vurnon Anita also falls into this category. More than capable and a great option to have to step in when plagued by injuries, but he’s a midfielder and one which we’ll have to rely on more in that area of the pitch if Yohan Cabaye does end up heading out the exit.
All things considered, I think it would be a naive move that serves only one purpose, fourth choice backup centre back, to sign the likes of a Douglas, James Tomkins, or any other rigid player, who probably wouldn’t come to be fourth choice anyway.
Sign real quality for left back, make the most of Santon’s strengths, and have that adequate cover for centre-back if we do happen to get hit with injuries. Worst case scenario, sign another young Haidara or Bigirimana standard talent as backup to groom for future too.
Simply signing a fourth choice centre back who is happy to be just that and too rigid to play anywhere else to a decent level seems token rather than thoughtful, to me anyway. The only player we’re going to sign who agrees to be that will be another Williamson or Perch at best and isn’t that the trap we’re trying to avoid?