As well as re-shaping his squad this summer, Rafa also has a decision to make on the game time of Jamaal Lascelles next season. He has showed good leadership qualities and some promise but with Lejeune on board and the good form of Ciaran Clark, his place could well be in jeopardy next year.
As a young player this would not be a problem if it wasn’t for the captaincy, which certainly complicates things. Providing he does not remain first choice, what routes could Rafa take next year?
Appoint a new captain?
Rafa’s pragmatic skills would be tested if he went down this route. He would have to pass the role to someone else, whilst keeping Lascelles motivated and made to feel like an important part of his plans still. Matt Ritchie would appear the strong candidate of the current playing squad to take the role; a just reward for his excellent attitude and work rate.
Depending on our transfer activity, Rafa may even appoint a new signing as captain if they come in with the right experience and pedigree. Someone like Pepe Reina would fit this profile. Either way, if Rafa does pass the role on, it is important to keep Lascelles involved in some capacity, maybe as vice-captain. His good character and having squad depth at centre half are both things we have lacked over the years.
A 3-5-2 formation?
A more unlikely and left of field option would be that Rafa may utilise this new formation next season, meaning slots for Clark, Lejeune and Lascelles. While improbable, as it was rarely used last year, it would mean the issue of having a captain who doesn’t play would not there.
The system would suit the blistering pace of Yedlin but you feel it would enforce further the need to purchase a more attacking left back than Paul Dummett. Other teams like Spurs and even Arsenal towards the end of the season, found success with this formation. Systems tend to come in cycles and popularity, it may just be that Newcastle explore this formation at some stage next year.
Retain as ‘Club captain’?
Another option is to keep Lascelles as captain, even if he is not first choice. This is something more common on the continent, with player effectively being a club captain. This would involve still being the face of the squad to the press and a leader off the pitch, with a more regular first team player wearing the armband when Lascelles doesn’t play.
The captaincy will certainly be in Rafa’s thoughts. As with a lot of things at the moment, you feel our player recruitment will determine the outcome of this one. Lascelles did a great job leading our title win last year, especially off the pitch, and whatever happens has come a long way since joining NUFC.