Fabian Schar’s wonder-goal for Newcastle United against Cardiff City at the weekend could offer Jamaal Lascelles the perfect opportunity to rediscover his best form.
The versatile Switzerland international has mainly been deployed as a centre-back this season but his two goals against the Welsh club, and his excellent display in defensive midfield against Blackburn Rovers in the FA Cup, could see Rafael Benitez experiment this weekend in the fourth round.
And that, in turn, may see Florian Lejeune and Jamaal Lascelles reunited in the heart of the Magpies’ defence.
Schar has been in excellent form recently, but his two goals against Cardiff left many Magpies fans shocked, such was the quality of the first.
Indeed, the 27-year-old went on a mazy run from outside the box before firing past Neil Etheridge to stun Neil Warnock’s men and send St James’ Park wild, before then poking in a second from a set-piece.
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With another FA Cup tie coming up, this time against Watford, Benitez has the perfect opportunity to restore Schar to a position he seemingly enjoys.
He was composed and disciplined against Blackburn, as the Magpies won 4-2, and playing in midfield offers Schar the opportunity to get forward and showcase his technical prowess.
Per Transfermarkt, Schar has scored goals for every club he has ever played for, netting 15 for FC Basel in 114 games, nine in 56 for FC Wil 1900 and also two in 27 for Deportivo La Coruna. He scored once for Hoffenheim, too.
That suggests that he is ready, willing and able to push forward and sniff out opportunities; Benitez should give him the chance to do just that this weekend.
While Schar has emerged as a high-quality Premier League defender, Lascelles has perhaps struggled this season and was even dropped from the squad against Chelsea in August following a disagreement with Benitez, as per The Daily Mail.
The Magpies captain was one of the club’s best players last term but has struggled for consistency this time around, and he missed the matches against Bournemouth and Burnley in November with a shoulder injury, before being an unused substitute against West Ham United the following game.
It is telling that Newcastle won two of those three fixtures.
Benitez, then, should restore the centre-back partnership of Lejeune and Lascelles that carried the club through the 2017-18 season.
The 25-year-old looked more composed alongside the Frenchman throughout the last campaign and they eventually finished 10th in the Premier League; the club also conceded fewer goals (47) than Arsenal and Leicester City, both of whom finished above them.
This season, they have already shipped 31, with 15 games to come.
Benitez shifting Schar forward, then, could hold the key to a Lascelles renaissance at St James’ Park; the change must start this weekend.