After 14 games of the Premier League season, things are looking increasingly dire for Newcastle.
The Tyneside club sit second bottom of the table with ten points and only two wins, with Steve McClaren’s charges looking destined for a relegation scrap this term. Although the side are showing a lack of cohesion going forward, one of the main problems that the former England manager faces is a leaky backline.
Newcastle have conceded 30 goals this season, the joint most in the division with newly promoted Bournemouth, with it being evident that changes are needed in the back four.
Interestingly, McClaren recalled experienced defender Mike Williamson from his loan stint with Wolves, but the centre-half has picked up a hamstring injury straight away.
With Jamaal Lascelles also struggling for fitness, it looks like it will be a combination of Fabricio Coloccini and Chancel Mbemba again at the heart of the hosts’ defence for this weekend’s visit of Liverpool.
However, in the long run there is certainly traction in an idea to break up this combination.
McClaren’s other options are far from convincing, with Williamson doing little to win favour with the St James’ faithful and Lascelles still a raw talent.
That said, over recent weeks Coloccini’s lack of pace has been alarmingly apparent and the Argentine stalwart appears to be coming more of a hindrance to the team than an asset.
As such, there is certainly room for suggesting that the South American enforcer could well be moved into midfield if an able replacement at the back can be found in January or Lascelles is to be suitably trusted.
Mbemba has gone off the boil slightly in the last month but has displayed signs of being a solid addition; someone alongside him with the same pace and athleticism could well be an excellent combination. Coloccini is a born leader but it could well be time for him to move forward and anchor a midfield that has been badly missing Cheick Tiote.
Although Vurnon Anita and Jack Colback do not lack effort or energy, there is a void in footballing intelligence and a bit of assurance in the boiler room currently.
Against Crystal Palace last weekend, the pair were outrun, fought and thought by former Newcastle charge Yohan Cabaye and the combative James McArthur. Putting Coloccini in there to break up opposition attacks, win aerial battles and lead by example would surely have a positive impact on the rest of the team.
Central midfield is often an area where games can be won and lost, with Newcastle currently lacking someone to put their foot on the ball when they have possession or to organise the team when they don’t.
Taking Coloccini out of the immediate firing line of the back four and putting him in midfield could actually enhance two areas of the team and make a flimsy-looking Newcastle outfit a more ominous proposition than it currently is.