Jamaal Lascelles is in a race to be fit for Saturday’s game against Bournemouth, but some fans are already calling for him to be benched for Fabian Schar.
Schar replaced Lascelles for the final 45 minutes of Newcastle’s win against Watford last weekend.
The Swiss international looked an assured presence at the back and excited fans with his ability to start attacks from defence.
Naturally supporters are keen to see Schar given more game time as he was a key player in the team’s first win in 11 matches.
But can Rafa Benitez realistically bench Newcastle’s captain after one decent half of football from Schar?
Lascelles’ current form
It’s important to note that Lascelles has looked strong for the early part of the season, and to bench him would be fairly harsh.
After some light training this week, it’s looking like he will be fit to start against Bournemouth after recovering from a shoulder injury.
He has started almost every game this season. The Magpies have only conceded an impressive 14 goals so far, two of which came against Chelsea, the only team the defender did not feature against.
Only six teams in the league have conceded less, showing how strong Newcastle’s back line have been.
Lascelles has been a huge part of that and is one of Newcastle’s few leaders on the pitch.
He is in the top 10 players in the entire league for both clearances and headed clearances this season. And he is also in the top 20 for aerial battles won.
It’s a testament to how commanding he has been for the Toon when defending crosses and balls from deep.
But despite his form, many fans would still prefer to see Schar replace the skipper.
What Schar offers
It’s unclear whether Schar is defensively as strong as Lascelles as he has yet to be given much game time.
But one thing he offers that the Englishmen doesn’t, is calmness and efficiency going forward.
The Swiss defender is known for his passing ability and is highly rated for his national side.
He was even named in the UEFA Nations League Team of the Week last month for his Switzerland performances.
But it still wasn’t enough to turn Rafa’s head.
However fans will now be putting pressure on Benitez to play Schar more often after his showing against Watford.
The manager will be wary that this is the first glimpse of quality the centre-back has shown, and in just 45 minutes of football.
Many supporters have been quick to forget his performance in the 3-1 Carabao cup loss to Nottingham Forest.
The defender was heavily criticised for his lacklustre defending that evening, which played a big part in Forest’s first two goals and would ultimately see the Toon knocked out.
Such is Rafa’s tactics, the manager is likely to continue to ease Schar into the team until he can prove he is as capable a defender as Lascelles.
Fans on Lascelles and Schar
Lascelles should be dropped. I love him as a person and a player don’t get me wrong. But how could you not start with those two at the back next week? Lascelles hasn’t looked right all season. Schar is a creative defender. Fernandez is a brick wall. #NUFC
— James (@James_NUFC1892) 3 November 2018
Strip Lascelles of the captains armband and drop him. Schar was fantastic when he came on.
— Give Rafa Some Coin 💰⚫️⚪️⚫️⚪️ (@RyanBelly) 3 November 2018
It’s the Rafa “short blanket” theory.
What do we do?
Lascelles is a great defender and leader.
But…..he has ZERO ball playing ability. He struggles to pass 5-10 yards at time.
Schar brings more positivity and forward passing, which will create more chances/goals.#NUFC
— Burnsie 🏴NUFC🏳️ (@BenArfaChance) 7 November 2018
Amazing how Schar had a good half against Watford and so many fans think he should start ahead of Lascelles. We’re too weak at defending balls into the box without Lascelles. Add to that his leadership on the pitch and he’s one of the first names on the team sheet for me.
— Outofhand32 (@Outofhand32) 7 November 2018
People have a strange look on our team. It was like when lascelles signed the new deal on Thursday (before the comments) folk were saying he is our best defender and should lead us for 10 years. After schar did well suddenly lascelles will be 4th choice apparently!
— Shaun (@ShaunGrey22) 5 November 2018