Jamaal Lascelles’ performances may have received some criticism this season, but his absence was clear to see in Newcastle’s 2-2 draw with Bournemouth.
The Toon captain is still recovering from an injury picked up against Everton, and missed the trip to the Vitality Stadium on Saturday.
Lascelles often lines up as the central defender in Newcastle’s back five, but Federico Fernandez was on hand to fill in.
Despite having had a brilliant start to the season, Fernandez has had a quiet 2019 due to the return of Florian Lejeune.
And the Argentinian showed against The Cherries why he has perhaps been relegated to the bench of late.
Fernandez struggled with the pace of Bournemouth’s attackers and was frequently caught out by Callum Wilson.
But that was the least of his woes.
Although soft, he also gave away a penalty for a foul on Nathan Ake, allowing Bournemouth to equalise from the spot.
He was then at fault for Bournemouth’s second as he was dispossessed by Dominic Solanke outside the penalty area.
Fernandez then failed twice to win back the ball from Solanke, who was able to assist Josh King for his second of the game.
His performance came under fire from Toon fans, with many highlighting the need for Lascelles.
Newcastle fans on Lascelles absence and Fernandez performance
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Lascelles is a much better defender than Fernandez who struggled badly today #NUFC
— The Insider (@theinsidernufc) March 16, 2019
Fernandez made a couple of big mistakes today leading to the goals. Even if the decisions from Mike Dean were questionable as ever.
Either Lascelles needs to get fit quickly or he needs to find match fitness again #NUFC
— Leazes News (@LeazesNews) March 16, 2019
I'd venture to suggest that Federico Fernandez has not given Rafa a selection headache after that performance. Need to hope Lascelles is back for the Arsenal match. #NUFC
— Sam GC (@Funguslover) March 16, 2019
Ritchie digging fernandez out of a hole there. Point a fair result in the end. 3 defensive mistakes costing goals. 1 point closer to safety 💪 #NUFC
— Ben Giles (@Sepoy_Giles) March 16, 2019
Missed Lascelles today………Dummett was outstanding! #nufc
— Lee Johnson RAFA! (@Lee18_92Johnson) March 16, 2019
Not a great return for Fernandez at centre half. At fault for both goals! #NUFC
— NUFC 360 (@NUFC360) March 16, 2019
Lascelles and Schar becoming irreplaceable
But it wasn’t just Lascelles that the Toon missed on Saturday.
Fabian Schar was also unavailable for the trip due to a yellow card suspension picked up against Everton.
The two defenders have become the star performers in Rafa Benitez’s defence and the stats prove it.
The Toon have so far lost 9 of the 15 games Schar has not started.
And before the Bournemouth game, Newcastle had conceded an average of 2.4 goals in matches Lascelles had not played.
Without them, Newcastle always struggle at the back.
Unfortunately, Schar’s two match suspension means the Toon will be without him again in their next fixture.
But an upcoming international break will hopefully allow a swift return for Lascelles.