After a humbling 4-0 defeat to Liverpool on Boxing Day, a section of Newcastle fans have once again aimed their frustrations at club captain Jamaal Lascelles.
The Englishman was at fault for the opening goal, his poor defensive header allowing an unmarked Dejan Lovren to volley home.
Lascelles has been inconsistent of late, and the moment was just one more fault in a series of defensive errors over the past few months.
For some Newcastle supporters, it’s one mistake too many and they’re desperate for the defender to be dropped.
But with the emergence of Fabian Schar and Federico Fernandez this season, some are even calling for the club to cash in.
Newcastle fans on Lascelles
Is Lascelles not the player we thought he was? Or is this just a matter of poor form/low confidence? Personally, I would take £25m for him now, but I wouldn’t have at the start of the season. Really hoping it’s just a (long) blip in his Newcastle career. #NUFC
— James (@James_NUFC1892) December 27, 2018
I might get stick for saying this but I really hope Rafa cashes in on Lascelles in January?
— DBaines⚫️⚪️Blaydon#Ashleyout (@Peas4NUFC) December 27, 2018
If Benitez was guaranteed the £ to spend on the team (big if!) I’d cash in on Lascelles while stock is relatively high. #nufc
— DB (@thedjr1981) December 27, 2018
Lascelles? If they get a decent bid I would sell. #nufc
— Steve (@steven_fawkes) December 23, 2018
Not even being reactionary, sell Lascelles. Lejeune/Fernandez/Schar/Clark/Dummett is more than good enough and then strengthen elsewhere
— Kia (@Kia_NUFC) December 9, 2018
Lascelles was rank today. Time to cash in while stocks high? Bang average. #nufc
— DB (@thedjr1981) December 9, 2018
Formation is temporary, class is permanent
It can’t be denied that Lascelles has been poor since his return from injury against Everton.
In his last five games, he’s arguably been at fault for at least three goals, costing the Toon vital points.
Against Liverpool, he was at his worst, and looked devoid of effort at times, particularly for Xherdan Shaqiri’s goal.
But it’s important to remember the Englishman is still playing in an uncomfortable system.
Since Lascelles’ return, Rafa Benitez has utilised a three at the back system, and it’s clear the defender is struggling.
He’s shown lack of awareness and positioning on several occasions and lacks confidence on the ball.
But he’s still only played five games in this formation after three years of playing four at the back for Newcastle.
A large part of his poor form is down to this alone and he may improve in the coming weeks.
Alternatively, Benitez may decide to leave Lascelles out of his line-up if he continues to play three at the back.
But calls to sell the captain are merely reactionary.
Benitez can’t play an ultra defensive game forever, and a return to a back four would undoubtedly see a return to form from Lascelles.