With Jose Enrique’s seemingly imminent departure, most Newcastle fans are asking themselves the same thing: “Who’s going to replace Enrique at left-back?”
Wayne Bridge? Too old, too pricey, and Mike Ashley isn’t going to want to pay his £90,000 a week wage. Neither would I to be fair. Neil Taylor? Signed a new deal with Swansea, yet I still see this one floating around. Steven Warnock? Nicky Shorey? Even Cheikh M’Bengue? All of these players would fit the left-back spot, but with Steven and Nicky aged 30 they’re most definitely not getting any younger. We need somebody who can play well, and is still young enough to improve drastically.
My answer: Aston Villa’s 22 year old American international, Eric Lichaj.
His impressive season on loan at Leeds United was enough to convince Bob Bradley to call up Lichaj for the 23-man United States squad in their Gold Cup run. He didn’t start the first two games against Canada and Panama, but later started the remaining four games for the United States where he put in three solid appearances against Guadeloupe, Jamaica, Panama, and one woeful appearance against Mexico.
Now, I must say that while he was a terrible performer against Mexico, he was put into an awkward position, right back. See, Steve Cherundolo was injured and taken off in the 11th minute, which gave Bob Bradley the brilliant idea of putting on Jonathan Bornstein for Cherundolo. Problem though is that Bornstein and Lichaj play the same position, so Lichaj was shifted to right-back while Bornstein ‘played’ left-back . Lichaj, while naturally right-footed, looked awkward and out of place the entire game, and defensive lapses from the United States allowed Mexico to take control of the game and win 4-2. At 22 he still has time to learn from that and adapt to playing both left and right comfortably.
Would he fit in with the current back line though? I think he would. His play style is quite aggressive and physical, but he shows bits of flair at times, much like Enrique. He wouldn’t dictate the game, but he’d win challenges and it would be safe to say that we’d let in less goals. He’s also naturally right footed, so (with a bit of training ground work) he’d be able to cover for Danny Simpson if he were to go out injured during the season, and at 22, he’s still got miles of room for improvement on top of being a solid player already.
Is Lichaj the next left-back super star? Not at all. But Lichaj does fit in under this current transfer philosophy that the ever “knowledgeable” Mike Ashley has come up with. He’s young, and he’d be cheap. I’d expect Villa to part ways with Lichaj for about £3-4 million, if even that.
To be honest though I just hope we bring in a left-back!
Thank to Wor Jackie for sending this in. A bit of a left-field choice but it’s probably something that Newcastle would go for – cheap, unknown, and with potential. Like it? Feel free to debate it or it apart or offer your own suggestions to problem that most of us know exists. You can keep up to date with Wor Jackie on Twitter @Ganon391