Newcastle United face off against Crystal Palace in the Premier League today as they go in search of their first win of the campaign.
The Magpies are yet to pick up a victory in the top flight and are currently 19th in the table, with Norwich the only team below them as it stands. They now face a Palace side who are 14th after winning one, drawing five and losing two of their eight Premier League games.
Graeme Jones has taken over as interim boss following Steve Bruce’s dismissal and he could make some changes to the side which lost to Tottenham last weekend.
In his pre-match press conference, the 51-year-old hinted that some players had trained their way out of his thoughts for the starting line-up.
He said: “I spoke to the players on Wednesday, after it was announced, and told them it’s a clean slate. ‘Everything that’s gone on before, we start again, I’ll assess you on your actions in the next three days’. Football makes the decisions, not me, I’m just the executor of those decisions. The line-up and tactics will be based on the interpretation of that. The players have picked themselves – or not in some cases.”
One change he could make is bringing Jamal Lewis in at left-back for Matt Ritchie. The ex-Norwich defender has been rarely-seen this season, with only nine minutes of Premier League football, and will surely have been busting a gut in training to impress Jones and ensure that he adds to his tally of minutes this weekend.
Ritchie endured a difficult afternoon against Spurs last Sunday. As per SofaScore, he lost possession of the ball 22 times, lost five of his nine duels, was dribbled past twice and only completed one of his six attempted crosses in 90 minutes. The full-back also ended the match with a passing success rate of 71%, with these statistics showing that he was dreadful at both ends of the pitch and in transition.
This suggests that it could be an ideal opportunity to bring Lewis, who was previously hailed as “underrated” by Darren Bent, into the starting XI. It could be his time to show that he deserves to be the first-choice left-back at Newcastle and prove that he is worth the £14.85m they paid for him in 2020.
If he can put in a similar performance to the one he produced in the Carabao Cup against Burnley earlier this season, he could be a marked improvement on Ritchie. He achieved a WhoScored rating of 7.15 as he completed two key passes, three dribbles, one tackle and 86.3% of his attempted passes. The Magpies also kept a clean sheet in this game, with Lewis showing that he can be a solid defender whilst also adding quality in the attacking third.
Today could be the right time to give him his first Premier League start of the season. After all, it’s not as if Newcastle’s preferred back four in Bruce’s final few games provided an impenetrable barrier of solidity, with no top-flight team conceding more than their 19 goals.