Few knew Florian Lejeune when he made the £8.7m switch from Eibar to England over the summer, however the Frenchman is looking more and more like a superb piece of business and the sort of centre-back Newcastle have craved for years.
He impressed over pre-season, but was soon injured on the opening day of the season after an dangerous Harry Kane challenge. His return to fitness coincided with the absence of Jamaal Lascelles and he looked shaky in a NUFC side all at sea without its captain.
He then had more bad luck with injuries but returned to Rafa’s side a few months ago and has looked the part again ever since, forming an impressive partnership alongside Jamaal Lascelles.
Strong in the air and steady on the ground
At 6ft 2′ he’s a big lad and he makes uses of that, wining the vast majority of his aerial duels. He’s no slouch on the ground though, with him appearing to have learnt from some slightly erratic moments earlier in the season.
He’s staying on his feet, reading the game well and looks solid positionally. Considering foreign centre-backs have a history of struggling to settle in during their first season in the Premier League, he’s adjusted to the intensity of it all very well – and he’ll only get better under Benitez.
Rafa’s secret weapon from the back
One thing I don’t think that many NUFC fans fully appreciate yet is his impressive ability with the ball. The lanky Frenchman doesn’t look like a ball player on the face of it, but he’s got one hell of a right foot on him, and we’ve seen that in recent weeks.
I was at the game on Sunday and he effortlessly pinged several stunning long balls in behind for Dwight Gayle, taking the pressure of Jonjo Shelvey to create from that quarter back role. It worked for Perez’s winner at Leicester a few weeks back and is giving Rafa a secret weapon from the back.
He’s yet to get a free-kick or long shot right, but it’s a matter of time until he smashes a 30-yard strike into the top corner!
Calm and composed
Like Coloccini in his heyday, Lejeune has an air of class and calm about him. He tends not to panic in situations most centre-backs may, and also appears to be learning when to play and when to put it into row z.
Lascelles’ athleticism and brawn combined with Lejeune’s composure and class looks set to be a match made in heaven, with the pair’s understanding at the heart of our defence improving each week.
— Triad85 (@Triad85) July 27, 2017
Newcastle’s defence is the 7th best in the league and Alexandre Lacazette’s goal on Sunday was the first we’ve conceded at St James’ Park since January.
Lascelles, Dummett, Diame and Dubravka have received most of the plaudits for our impressive work defensively of late, but Florian Lejeune has played a huge part..
He may not have been a signing that excited many fans last summer, but I am feeling more and more confident that he’ll turn out to be a very good centre-back in the top flight and a quality signing for the club.