Newcastle star – Future England international or weak link?

We all know a year is an awfully long time in football, especially being a Newcastle fan. The last twelve months in particular have been a whirlwind for current toon skipper, Jamaal Lascelles.

Rewind to this time last year and Newcastle had just been well beaten down on the south coast by Southampton, a team perceived with little to play for, as Newcastle spiralled down to the Championship.  3-1 flattered the toon that day but an interesting side note was the introduction of Lascelles at half time, with Newcastle 2-0 down, replacing Steven Taylor (remember him?). After an improved second half showing, Lascelles boldly faced the press and stated:

“Personally, as a member of this team, I think we need to play with more heart…we need more desire, we need bigger characters on the pitch…we need players who care.”

An attack aimed at quite a few perhaps (Sissoko, Wijnaldum, the selective fitness of Coloccini perhaps), it was both impressive and refreshing in equal measure from a young player to say what most were thinking, despite not being an automatic starter.

It was this attitude that won him a place in the side for the remainder of the season, playing a key part in Newcastle picking up 12 points from six games and remaining unbeaten. Despite still going down, it led to Jamaal being given the captaincy for the 16/17 season. A bright future was set.

This season has not always been plain sailing for the 6’2” centre half though. Poor displays in shock defeats to Fulham and Huddersfield left Newcastle bottom of the Championship after two games. Rafa dropped Lascelles, opting for fan favourite Chancel Mbemba for the visit of Reading, with a 4-1 victory getting our season up and running. Lascelles was later eased back into the side and has been a virtual ever present since, whilst retaining the armband. Clever management by Benitez took the heat off Lascelles but vulnerabilities have become apparent in his game as the season has unfolded.

With Newcastle linked with new centre halves almost daily for next season, it leaves Rafa with a situation on his hands come July. Ciaran Clark has had an outstanding season after arriving to little fanfare in the summer (myself included.) Out of the two, he is better on the ball; more composed and offers a nice balance being left footed.

Lascelles can be error prone, slow on the turn and is guilty of overplaying. Watching opposing teams against Newcastle, a pattern emerges that teams are increasingly happy to let him have the ball, then close him down quickly to draw an error. Fans have begun to ask if it is actually Lascelles who is a potential weak link in our defence, which although still one of the best in the division, has conceded far too many sloppy goals at home in particular.

It is also worth considering that Lascelles is just 23. It is generally accepted centre halves peak between 28-32, where they are at a good level physically but have a wealth of experience and positional sense. It is this expertise and positioning that Lascelles perhaps needs; he has still played under 100 career games and has some great raw abilities. Physically powerful, domineering in the air and not afraid to shirk a tackle, when on form, he can a real asset.

It is easy to forget he was courted by Arsenal before coming to Newcastle and in line with modern media, is only ever a few good games away from being linked with a £20m move to Liverpool or Chelsea.

Lascelles’ greatest strength is his character, which, as alluded to, is something not enough Newcastle players have possessed in recent times. Of course, the real acid test will be what happens this summer and if expected we sign a new centre half, such as Harry Maguire. Playing a full season in the Premiership would also be a test to see what level he is really at.

The greater scrutiny comes from him also being captain. If Newcastle back Benitez with transfer funds, Lascelles will have work to do to retain his place both as skipper and in the side. There are clear areas of improvement for Lascelles’ game but he has the perfect manager and platform to improve. Whatever happens, if he captains us back to the Premier League, we can be grateful he was willing to stand up when so many other players weren’t.

About Simon Riddlesden

Lifelong Newcastle United fan and East Stand season ticket holder. Observations from a supporter who has followed NUFC during Champions League participation and through relegation, taking me from Milan to Scunthorpe.

24 thoughts on “Newcastle star – Future England international or weak link?

  1. Simon: from your previous article about summer transfers. Did Rafa say we would make the Atsu transfer permanent? He must be really good in training then because he hasn’t exactly set the Championship on fire. Does he have any goals or assists? This is a serious question as I don’t know where to look to find out.

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  2. Eric, the Chronicle alluded to it today I think:

    https://www.google.co.uk/amp/www.chroniclelive.co.uk/sport/football/football-news/rafa-benitez-extensive-summer-plans-12868129.amp

    Eric Sykes:
    Simon: from your previous article about summer transfers. Did Rafa say we would make the Atsu transfer permanent? He must be really good in training then because he hasn’t exactly set the Championship on fire. Does he have any goals or assists? This is a serious question as I don’t know where to look to find out.

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  3. Again from the previous article… I think Rafa knows he has to hit the reset button for the PL. We will have to spend about 100 million, though. If Palace can do it, then why not us?

    Arsenal, Man U, Man City and Chelsea will spend 200 million. Liverpool and Spurs have a least 100 million. If Rafa believes we can currently compete with these teams he has another think coming. However, he has dragged inferior teams to the top before.

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  4. Thanks Simon. I misread your previous article and thought it said we were LIKELY to sign Atsu. Then I thought WHY.

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  5. Eric Sykes:
    Thanks Simon. I misread your previous article and thought it said we were LIKELY to sign Atsu. Then I thought WHY.

    3 goals and 2 assists this season. Not enough really.

    His stunning goal away to Rotherham gave me hope & at times he’s made an impact from the bench but I fear he’s a confidence player who can easily go into his shell.

    Pacey ,yes, but final ball is everything and his appears to be lacking.

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  6. Who do we have that could start for a top half PL team? There are a few, but none would be stars.

    3 decent goalies – Elliot, Krul, Darlow
    Anita
    Clark (maybe)
    Shelvey
    Ritchie
    Gayle

    Maybe Hayden and Dummett (stop giggling at the back). That’s about it, so the Chronicle saying Rafa is looking for 6 starters sounds about right.

    The recent slump in form will have opened Rafa’s eyes as well.

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  7. Yedlin and Armstrong?

    Mitro, MBemba and Lascelles could push on but it doesn’t look good.

    Who the hell made up those stories a while back about Perez being wanted by Man City for 20 million or whatever? There was another one about Real Madrid wanting him. Have they seen him play?

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  8. Talking about Adam Armstrong – well, NOT talking about Adam Armstrong! The talk about him being the next big thing has all but died off. 5 goals in 30 games for Coventry will do that. He has scored at every other level so hopefully this is a blip and he is not the next Michael Chopra.

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  9. Think he needs more than 6, otherwise who do we bring off the bench during an injury crisis?

    Eric Sykes:
    Who do we have that could start for a top half PL team? There are a few, but none would be stars.

    3 decent goalies – Elliot, Krul, Darlow
    Anita
    Clark (maybe)
    Shelvey
    Ritchie
    Gayle

    Maybe Hayden and Dummett (stop giggling at the back). That’s about it, so the Chronicle saying Rafa is looking for 6 starters sounds about right.

    The recent slump in form will have opened Rafa’s eyes as well.

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  10. Or Adam Le Fondre

    Eric Sykes:
    Talking about Adam Armstrong – well, NOT talking about Adam Armstrong! The talk about him being the next big thing has all but died off. 5 goals in 30 games for Coventry will do that. He has scored at every other level so hopefully this is a blip and he is not the next Michael Chopra.

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  11. Good article Simon. Lascelles maybe needs a rest. Has looked jaded recently but I wouldn’t write him off in spite of recent performances. Still young as you say and so is Mbemba.

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  12. Andy Magpie: The Chronicle saying Rafa is looking for 6 STARTERS sums up where we are and shows that Rafa is seeing what the fans are seeing – that we will get automatic promotion but this team is not good enough. We don’t want to be buying sicknotes (Sturridge) either as we will have a thin squad.

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  13. Ah Sorry yes, I’ve misread. Does that mean we also sign another 3 players who are not quite prem quality but can offer something a little different should they be called upon?

    Eric Sykes:
    Andy Magpie: The Chronicle saying Rafa is looking for 6 STARTERS sums up where we are and shows that Rafa is seeing what the fans are seeing – that we will get automatic promotion but this team is not good enough. We don’t want to be buying sicknotes (Sturridge) either as we will have a thin squad.

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  14. Toad of Toad Hall has beat Chelsea and Arse with Arrogant Alan’s players. What were you saying about Chunky being a mid-table PL manager and the best we could get/hope for Troysta 🙂 Who are the “clueless crew”?

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  15. Nice read Simon, I do wish the Chronicle would not print this sort of stuff until after we are promoted. It’s not exactly a moral booster to any of the team reading it. There is no doubt we will need improvements if we go up but for now I do believe the players we have are giving there all what ever their ability. If we go up automatically then they have done their job and deserve our gratitude. The Chronicle printing that article just invites every abusive fan to vent about player A or player B right when we need them giving their all.
    Saturday most the team was poor but in general our away days have been good and job done we can forgive one blip against a good side I’m sure.

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  16. Good read. Agree he is an asset. Has had shaky moments but generally steady and the right character. Time on his side.

    Gayle, Shelvey, Hayden, Ritchie, Lascelles, Clark, Yedlin, Dummet and the goal keepers all capable of staying in the side next season.

    Other than Mbemba I’m struggling to think of players capable of providing a challenge for a starting spot to the above. Serious investment required if we are going to do any good in the PL.

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  17. He has an awful lot to learn and if I am being totally honest I have been less than impressed with most of the defenders this season. Clark has been consistent but I kind of expected more improvement from the rest – especially under Rafa.

    We will need a new defence if we go up.

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  18. I watched Allardyce being interviewed after the Arsenal game. He spent the whole 3 minutes going on and on about the preparation and how it was a tactical Masterclass (which admittedly it was). However, he didn’t mention the players except to say Cabaye’s goal was well taken. It was pure arrogance. They are not safe yet so the **** shouldn’t be crowing.

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  19. What worries me about Lascelles is he looks like he’s not learning from his own mistakes. Always believes he has more time and control than he has and is often robbed. At 6’2 he should be dominant in the air but he isn’t. Take both Wednesdays goals. He was behind the scorer on both occasions. I’d like him to succeed and if he learns he could be. He’s still behind where Steven Taylor was at that age and that’s a very worrying sign.

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  20. Interesting mentions for young Arma. The way Diame and Perez have played the (so called) No 10 slot this season I reckon he would have done better. He might have done really well feeding off a Murphy or Mitro. Could be wishful thinking but he has a great finishing style.
    There’s something about Gayle that I can’t come to like the guy. He has scored the goals but they’ve mostly been tap ins and there’s very little else to his game.
    Bit pessimistic from me today. Good crack for once though and a nice article Simon.

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  21. georgio: I am not sold on Lascelles either. It might be a Rooney situation where he is playing because he is Captain. Eventually Mourinho and then Southgate saw the light. However, it was not entirely Lascelles’ fault for the 1st goal. I just saw the highlights and there were 4 NUFC players around the goalscorer – you couldn’t fault the marking, just the execution. The second goal Lascelles let Fletcher get in front of him, pure and simple.

    How many times can we say that we played **** but still got a result? I have probably been the most guilty in defending our position at the expense of our performances. But after a while the excuses have to end. We have been pretty bad for at least a couple of months, maybe more. When Shelvey was out people were saying we were missing him for example and that was Christmas.

    And, we also have the illusion of a big squad because Rafa does not play most of the fringe players unless he has to. It says a lot when Gouffran starts even though he has looked tired for 3 months and is not very good anyway. Oh, and Diame at number 10 when he is obviously not suited to that role.

    We will still get automatic promotion though.

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