Steve Bruce should unleash Jacob Murphy at right-back when Newcastle visit Manchester United on Sunday after ripping into Emil Krafth for his performance against Chelsea.
That’s according to Chronicle Live, who noted after the Stamford Bridge defeat that Krafth ‘took an ear bashing’ from the Magpies boss after his display in the capital raised question marks.
The Sweden international was caught in two minds whenever faced with a one-on-one situation against Timo Werner, never knowing whether or not to close the German down and force him inside or to push the attacker out to the touchline.
Krafth’s indecision meant he left south-west London without attempting a single tackle, in a devastating crash back down to earth for the 26-year-old after a stellar performance against Southampton having come on to replace the injured Javier Manquillo.
Only in one of Krafth’s other six Premier League appearances this season has the £31.5k-per-week full-back failed to record a single tackle while making a joint season-low one clearance to earn his second-worst WhoScored match rating of the 2020/21 campaign at 6.01 out of 10.
His struggles further meant Chelsea enjoyed a lot of success attacking down Newcastle’s right-hand side, with wing-back Marcos Alonso taking a game-high five shots and Werner striking four efforts on Karl Darlow’s net.
Werner’s run down the Blues’ left-hand channel ultimately led to Olivier Giroud breaking the deadlock, as well, with the German attacking the space Krafth vacated to shield Alonso before being flat-footed in dealing with the former RB Leipzig star.
Krafth will be expected to face a similar scenario at Old Trafford this weekend with wide play a key weapon of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United, who utilise the pace of Marcus Rashford, Mason Greenwood and Anthony Martial to stretch opponents.
Murphy may now prove a better option than Krafth against the Red Devils, should Bruce opt to recall the £3m-rated dynamo who has failed to feature for Newcastle since a 2-1 defeat to Leeds United last month.
Bruce has omitted Murphy from three of their recent matchday squads since losing at home to Marcelo Bielsa’s Whites but gifted the 25-year-old a seat on the bench against Chelsea following the Toon’s injury crisis.
His absence in recent weeks has marked a sizable fall from grace for Murphy, who Bruce praised for the impact he delivered as a makeshift full-back earlier in the season.
“I never contemplated it [a loan move] after the first week of pre-season. When he came back, he looked like a different player and had a different attitude about him,” Bruce said, via quotes by Chronicle Live in October.
“I grasped that he couldn’t try any harder. Certainly, his physique he was in good condition. We all know he is a very good athlete. He looks like he’s matured. And he really wanted to be a Newcastle player.”
Those early efforts at right-back while in favour under Bruce are still enough for Murphy to pose a threat to Krafth, having attempted (2.3) and won possession (1.3) with more tackles than the Sweden international (1/1.4), made more interceptions (1.5 to 1.2), offered more blocks (2.3 to 1.2) and got forward to deliver more crosses (3.1 to 2.2), per WhoScored.
If Bruce was indeed frustrated by Krafth’s efforts at Stamford Bridge, he must now unleash Murphy to build on his previous performances or risk being left in anguish again.