Steve Bruce should brutally axe Jamaal Lascelles from his starting line-up and replace the Newcastle United captain with Federico Fernandez in Saturday’s clash with Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Nuno Espirito Santo’s Wolves travel to St. James’ Park this weekend looking to continue their resurgence, with three wins in their last four games after going winless in the Premier League for almost two months.
Lascelles started both the Stamford Bridge and Old Trafford affairs after recovering from a hamstring injury, sustained just weeks after returning from a spell out with coronavirus.
But the 27-year-old could only let Bruce down in south west London with an uninspiring display as Thomas Tuchel’s side fired home twice to seal all three points, and again failed to walk the walk against Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Red Devils after talking the talk pre-game.
“I just think we did not start well enough,” Lascelles said, via quotes by Chronicle Live, following the Chelsea defeat. “From our goal-kick, we kicked it out for a throw-in and that set the tone.
“We need to realise we shouldn’t need to go one or two down to get going. We were off them a bit and made it easy. Against a team like Chelsea, you have to be nasty and if you don’t do that, their quality will come through.
“The performances have been better but tonight was not good enough, especially the first half, we did not give up in the second half and them positive signs are always good to have.”
Lascelles’ comments did not inspire much at Manchester United and Newcastle lost again for an eighth defeat in his last nine appearances across all competitions.
The £13m-rated titan earned his worst WhoScored match rating of the Premier League campaign at Old Trafford, too, with an appalling 5.73 – the third time this term that he has scored below a base 6.0 out of 10, and far below his average 6.48 for the season.
Over his last nine outings, the Magpies have also conceded two or more goals on every occasion but January’s 2-0 win at Everton, when Lascelles was forced off early in the second half with his hamstring injury.
Bruce must surely now face a dilemma over retaining Lascelles in his starting line-up for Saturday’s clash with Wolves, which could prove a must-win fixture – not only for his position at the helm but the Toon’s survival hopes.
Bruce has previously lauded Fernandez for the “positive influence” the defender can bring on and off the pitch at St. James’ Park, and should look to capitalise on that if Newcastle are to avoid potentially ending the weekend inside the Premier League’s bottom three.
Fernandez also offers almost twice as many successful (1.5) and attempted (1.8) tackles per game than £40,000-per-week Lascelles (0.8/0.9), who ranks last among all five players that Bruce has fielded at centre-half in the top-flight this term, per WhoScored.
Lascelles is also last for interceptions (0.6), though level with 32-year-old Fernandez who is first for clearances (5.6) while his English teammate ranks fourth (4.2).
It may be brutal to axe the captain, but Bruce must make the tough decisions if he’s to keep Newcastle out of the relegation zone.
AND in other news, Newcastle are exploring a deal to sign a £31.5m-rated star for free this summer…