Steve Bruce can ease his injury nightmare by repeating the masterstroke of playing Isaac Hayden in defence when Newcastle United visit Chelsea on Monday night.
The Toon boss is facing a serious headache ahead of travelling to Stamford Bridge, after losing Fabian Schar for several months due to a torn knee ligament sustained in last week’s 3-2 win over Southampton.
United were already without options in central-defence before the Saints affair, with captain Jamaal Lascelles sidelined with a hamstring injury and Federico Fernandez missing as he continues to feel the effects caused by coronavirus after testing positive in November.
Bruce opted to name Hayden in central defence at home to Southampton to help deal with his mounting injury problems, in a decision that has since seen the Arsenal product earn a wealth of praise.
BBC Sport pundit Garth Crooks included the £22,000-per-week talent as part of his Team of Week for the last Premier League matchweek, having felt Hayden was brilliant and pivotal to Newcastle claiming a result.
“Hayden was magnificent in the last 20 minutes of this fixture. His clearance off the line from a Danny Ings sliced shot was outstanding. His ability to sense the danger and hold off the Saints bombardment was quite brilliant,” Crooks noted.
Hayden started the Southampton match beside Schar but was later joined by Paul Dummett and Arsenal loanee Joe Willock as Bruce threw everything but the kitchen sink at retaining Newcastle’s one-goal lead, having fallen to nine men due to the Schar’s injury and a red card for Jeff Hendrick.
It was the eighth time this season that Hayden has now opened a fixture at centre-half across all competitions, having sporadically been utilised like a swiss army knife capable of getting the job done regardless of where he plays.
Bruce should now stick with Hayden in the Newcastle backline for his side’s upcoming trip to Chelsea, as the 25-year-old would be expected to help ease United’s injury nightmare.
Hayden certainly made the position his own against Southampton, with no Toon player who started offering more than his six clearances, per WhoScored. That is greater than the highest average amount achieved per game among all Premier League players who have featured more than five times this term, with that honour heading to Fulham’s Tosin Adarabioyo (5.9).
Only Javier Manquillo, who featured for just 24 minutes, achieved a higher pass completion rate than Hayden among the Magpies against the Saints, as well, with the Spaniard finding teammates with 86% of his seven passes while the Englishman completed 78% of his 23.
No Newcastle player has also averaged a higher number of successful tackles per Premier League game when fielded at centre-back this season than Hayden, who offers 2.8 from 3.3 attempts, while Fernandez (1.5/1.8) is the only other option to average more than one, per WhoScored.
So, clearly, Hayden can help ease Bruce’s injury nightmare by featuring in defence against Chelsea on Monday, in what could be another masterstroke move by the United boss.
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