Steve Bruce must ruthlessly axe Emil Krafth from the Newcastle United starting line-up as he never looked comfortable defending against Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday.
Krafth was recalled to the Magpies’ backline for the visit of Jose Mourinho’s Spurs to St. James’ Park, after missing his side’s 3-0 humbling to relegation-rivals Brighton & Hove Albion.
The Amex Stadium affair marked the first Premier League match that Krafth had missed since February 2, having opened five-straight fixtures after replacing Javier Manquillo at home to Southampton.
But Krafth failed to show Bruce why he was wrong to omit him from the matchday squad on the south coast, as the Sweden right-back endured endless troubles in an unnatural centre-half role up against Harry Kane and Carlos Vinicius.
Krafth didn’t know whether to push tight or stand-off Tottenham when Tanguy Ndombele brought the ball forward, leaving Kane with acres of space to run into behind Jamaal Lascelles and prod home moments after Joelinton had broken the deadlock.
The £57k-per-week full-back had a chance to clear his lines and prevent Kane from equalising after Martin Dubravka got down to deny the striker’s initial effort. But rather than clear the danger for a corner, he was made to pay for trying to play in his six-yard area.
His moments of hesitation set the tone for Krafth’s performance and he never managed to find a platform to build from after that, before eventually being hooked in the 79th minute having never instilled any confidence at the back.
Krafth managed to offer brief moments of potential at the other end of the pitch, having sent a fizzing ball across the Spurs box only for Joelinton to blot his copybook by lashing a shot past the post.
But it was defensively where Bruce needed Krafth the most on Sunday, only to be let down and see his decision to field the 26-year-old full-back in the centre backfire.
Krafth would earn the joint-lowest SofaScore match rating of any Newcastle player who featured on Sunday with Dwight Gayle at 6.4 out of 10 due to their below-par displays, while only Davinson Sanchez would score lower at 5.9 for Tottenham.
The Swedish defender scored so poorly thanks partly to his error leading to Kane’s initial equalising goal, but also as the £3.5m-rated dud failed to register a single successful tackle or interception and lost his only aerial duel.
Lascelles averages the least successful tackles per Premier League game by a Toon player who has featured at centre-back more than once this term with 0.7 from 0.9, while the Englishman and Federico Fernandez offer the fewest interceptions (0.6), per WhoScored.
Isaac Hayden has played four times at centre-back this season and ranks last for aerial duels won per game with two from 2.8 attempts, while Ciaran Clark – who was on the bench against Spurs – tops the Magpies’ chart with 3.5 won from 5.5 challenges.
Bruce will be well aware that Newcastle cannot have any passengers on the pitch as they look to pull themselves clear of the relegation zone, having opened a slender three-point advantage over Fulham with a draw and still hold a game in hand, so must axe Krafth again.