Battle at the back: The heart of NUFC’s defence

Newcastle are almost certainly in the market for a new centre half this summer. Many have been linked, including the likes of Stoke City captain Ryan Shawcross and Ruben Semedo, before he opted for Villarreal. However, if press reports are to be believed, NUFC are closing in on signing Eibar’s Florian Lejeune after we activated his £8.7m release clause.

Due to Rafa insisting on strong squad depth for a gruelling season in the Championship last year, we already have four centre halves. Just who will be our first choice pairing by the time we host Spurs in August?

Florian Lejeune

The 26 year old Frenchman may not be a household name, but he has steadily rebuilt his career following being let go by Manchester City without making an appearance.  La Liga observers will tell you he shone in a well organised Eibar side last year, making more clearances than anyone in the division. Rafa remains well connected in Spain so will know all about him and after being linked with Spurs and Arsenal this summer, he does appear good value at just under £9m in today’s market. Providing he signs, as this is Newcastle after all, you would assume he is not being brought in to play on the bench.

Ciaran Clark

Contender for player of the season last year. Clark completed an outstanding campaign to make the centre half position his own. He offers a nice balance being left footed, is surprisingly confident on the ball and is a threat in the opposition penalty box too. He also comes with a wealth of Premier League experience and after gaining Rafa’s trust, I fully expect him to be in our starting eleven next season.

Jamaal Lascelles

This remains a contentious one. The captaincy certainly complicates things. If he wasn’t captain, he would be a promising centre half, who despite clear gaps in his game, would be an asset in the squad. With Clark playing so well, the best thing for his development may be to install someone like Matt Ritchie as captain and allow Lascelles to continue his development and to show again the promise he delivered during our last 10 games of the 15/16 season.  Rafa will already be thinking of how to pragmatically manage the captain situation while strengthening our defence, no doubt.

Chancel Mbemba

Mbemba remains a fan favourite after showing promise in the Premiership, despite our relegation. Athletic and still young, he does have a lot to offer. However, reading between the lines, I am not sure Rafa has him in his long term plans. A costly error in a home defeat to Wolves led to him being removed as first choice for most of last campaign. With a new centre half arriving, the form of Clark and Lascelles still being captain, I think Mbemba may be frozen out. He also remains one of the few players we could get good money for. One to watch closely this summer.

Grant Hanley

By all accounts, Hanley looks surplus to requirements at Newcastle. He provided valuable competition last year and seems to have a good attitude. He will want regular football though and it will also be a way of Rafa generating income. Expect a move to a Championship side over the coming weeks.

This would leave Clark to partner our new centre half at the heart of our defence, with Lascelles providing stern competition. Of course, Newcastle getting Lejeune over the infamous ‘line’ and how Rafa decides to handle the captaincy remain key factors in all this. Either way, it’s an area we need to deliver in next year, if we are to survive.

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.

53 thoughts on “Battle at the back: The heart of NUFC’s defence

  1. I also see Hanley leaving for a championship club too, Mbemba is a funny one, I like him and think he has the makings of a really good defender but for some reason I don’t think Rafa totally trust him. Clark has proved a great acquisition for us and must surely be assured his place . Lascelles does worry me a little, I think he gets caught ball watching a bit and he does seem to of suffered a bit for being captain. As for Lejeune , I know very little about him so can’t really comment but hopefully if he joins he’ll be a good addition.
    Thanks Simon

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  2. Both Lejeune and Mbemba can play defensive mid either alongside or in place of Hayden. And with Clarke & Dummett both left footed we could play a back 3

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  3. 3 at the back is an option and apparently Rafa had them practising it last season. If we do go that route we need a much more attacking LB than Dummett with Yedlin a great option at RB. Mbemba, Lejeune and Clark for me assuming Lejeune is as good as we’re led to believe. However we know nothing and he could be the DM we all think we need.

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  4. Madness Prem. Do not know if they mean style of play, transfer strategy or development of the club but surely all of that was discussed prior to signing him? He delivered a solid league finish and reached a domestic cup semi final whilst playing decent footy. Not sure what else they can expect unless he has not given enough attention to developing the youth sides or something?

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  5. shamrock:
    Remember having high hopes for Adam Campbell? He just signed for Morecambe in League 2…

    shamrock:
    Remember having high hopes for Adam Campbell? He just signed for Morecambe in League 2…

    Over the years we have had a lot of young players getting so far then they tend to fall away for some reason,hopefully it might change with Rafa casting a eye over things,then again some are just not good enough to take that final step up

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  6. Premandup:
    Massive blow after Newcastle miss out on a player who was never a target

    Prem – ? Just seen that. Pepe, Mangala & Abrahams are the players that have avaded us … ????‍♂️ Bothered.

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  7. Stuart79:
    So Graham Carr has left by mutual consent

    Dummy spat coz Rafas in charge of transfers do we think?.

    Can’t say I’m overly bothered like. I know he’s had a bad press, but to be fair to him, I reckon he hasn’t done too bad operating on a strict & restricted Ashley regime up until recently.

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  8. I don’t think it was ever going to last with Rafa. Rafa wants to be the man in charge and this is a big boost to his authority imo. Over to Rafa – you have complete control.

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  9. Although all in all I think Carr did a decent job for us considering the almost straight jacket like conditions he had to work with for most of them he time.

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  10. Had to put this on,I’ve read on the news,he could have bought the toon the dummy

    $45 billion dollars found in a flat in Nigeria, the owner said “I’ve been trying to give it away for the past 10 years but no ******* returned my emails”

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  11. Icedog:
    Had to put this on,I’ve read on the news,he could have bought the toon the dummy

    $45 billion dollars found in a flat in Nigeria, the owner said “I’ve been trying to give it away for the past 10 years but no ******* returned my emails”

    😆

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  12. I suppose I will have to send my “In Carr We Trust” t-shirt back to Ed Harrison. Do you think I will get a refund for false advertising?

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  13. Olly: please make Pardew to Sunderland happen. The funny thing is that he would probably get them promoted. He does well for the first 18 months and then everybody (except for Troysta) realizes the Emperor has no clothes.

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  14. Oh God Olly. Pardew and Toney Adams is a match made in Cockerney ****e. I think Adams’ record at Granada is something like – played 8, lost 8, scored 3 conceded 22.

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  15. Wasn’t Pardew asked about the Scum job a few weeks back and he said it’s not a job he could consider having been Newcastle manager (his words).
    So it will be interesting to see if he does go there. I hope he does!, they deserve the prick!!. But it will expose him as the liar he is.

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  16. Pardew to Sunderland , now there’s a thought. 😆 😆 😆 Poor sods, haven’t they suffered enough.

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  17. Kim It would break Troy’s heart Pardew getting the Sunderland job 😆 For that reason I hope he doesn’t get the job

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  18. It has to happen. For the comic value alone. And hire Ugly John as your sidekick.

    And for the triumvirate of tripe bring in Mike Williamson so you can do that free kick routine to the edge of the box that never worked. EVER.

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  19. Eric Sykes:
    It has to happen. For the comic value alone. And hire Ugly John as your sidekick.

    And for the triumvirate of tripe bring in Mike Williamson so you can do that free kick routine to the edge of the box that never worked. EVER.

    And get old man Carr on board

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  20. We’ve got a few players Pardew will be interested in. Cheap too and possibly Championship standard (?) Saivet, De Jong, Riviere, Lazaar, Hanley

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  21. Another friendly announced in Wolfsburg’s juniors’ stadium, capacity 5,000. A kickabout? As I said before, Man U are playing Barca, Real Madrid and Man City and we get to play in a German juniors’ stadium.

    And Hearts, Bradford and Preston. Be still my beating heart.

    And Hellas Verona. 2nd in Serie B last year.

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  22. I’ve saw a few reports saying Watford are chasing Will Hughes from Derby for £8m.
    I’d take him in a heartbeat over the £20m suggested for Cairney like.

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  23. Sharpy17:
    I’ve saw a few reports saying Watford are chasing Will Hughes from Derby for £8m.
    I’d take him in a heartbeat over the £20m suggested for Cairney like.

    hes not the same player he was mate (hence Derby letting him go)he had a real bad injury and just got back half way through season and did poorly by all accounts

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  24. icedog: hes not the same player he was mate (hence Derby letting him go)he had a real bad injury and just got back half way through season and did poorly by all accounts

    Ice – I don’t know about his injury mate. I know Gary Rowett is wanting to sell a couple of players to raise funds to get his players in and is ready to sell Hughes & Ince as he’s most sellable assists.
    To be fair Hughes has still made the U21s squad and is being looked at by PL clubs.

    I was about to say I’d like someone with a bit of PL experience though – but to be honest, I’d just be happy with SOMEONE ?

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  25. Sharpy17: Ice – I don’t know about his injury mate.I know Gary Rowett is wanting to sell a couple of players to raise funds to get his players in and is ready to sell Hughes & Ince as he’s most sellable assists.
    To be fair Hughes has still made the U21s squad and is being looked at by PL clubs.

    I was about to say I’d like someone with a bit of PL experience though – but to be honest, I’d just be happy with SOMEONE

    😆 😆 😆

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  26. Hughes is off to Watford for £8m. Played well for the U21s last night apparently.
    2 more links today in Romelu and Traore. On and On . . . . ..

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  27. Interesting transfer news for us . . . Stoke are bidding a lot to sign centre back Gibson from Boro (Shawcross?) Chelsea are buying 2 centre backs from Italy (Zouma?) Gibbs has turned down a move and Moreno from Pool is available at around £15m. Reina is finally leaving Napoli.

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  28. Well Sels & Vukic have both left for other clubs now – so is it a case of clearing the decks first?. It’s actually quite scary how much deadwood we are carrying when you look.

    But here’s another week gone by and still no new faces. God knows what the hold up is on this CB from Eibar?! – don’t think he’s even had a medical yet.

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  29. Georgio list of players could help Sunderland win promotion and clear some deadwood at the same time. Colback should also go back

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  30. Stem:
    I’m more excited about Pardew getting the Sunderland job at the moment Kim.

    😆 aye,god knows we something to chat about 🙄

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  31. Kim what’s happened to G2 ? Miss his comments as well mate and Troys.
    Transfers has always been slow at the club. The longer they leave it and start panic buying the more money it will cost. Are dead wood is going to be easy to get rid of.

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