Despite starting all three of the previous Premier League games this season, Federico Fernandez was dropped for the 4-1 defeat away to Manchester United last weekend, and Steve Bruce must recall him for the match against Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds United tonight.
Bruce’s three centre-backs against the Red Devils at Old Trafford last weekend were captain Jamal Lascelles, Isaac Hayden and Ciaran Clark.
Last Saturday’s trio was the third back three combination that Bruce has tried in just four games. It’s clear he doesn’t know who to pick or what the best partnership is.
But chopping and changing is only going to unsettle the team further, Bruce needs to give his best back three a run of games to establish themselves as first choice.
What has happened so far?
There is no denying that the Magpies are struggling to keep the opposition at bay and that’s compounded by the fact Bruce’s team have conceded more goals (12) than any other Premier League team so far this season.
The partnership that Bruce has used twice this season was Fernandez, Lascelles and Fabian Schar.
In those two games, between Aston Villa (2) and Southampton (6), the opposition registered eight shots on target.
In the games against West Ham (9) and Manchester United (7), where Bruce deployed different personnel, Newcastle allowed double (16) the amount of shots on their goal.
Federico Fernandez deserves to start
Although Fernandez isn’t the quickest, he has the ability to sense danger and positions himself well to clear his lines.
The Argentine currently sits in the top five players for the average number of clearances made per match in the Premier League.
The centre-back who has been capped 32 times by his nation (Transfermarkt) averages 5.7 clearances per game. Sitting top of the charts is Norwich City’s Ben Gibson, who averages 8 clearances per game (WhoScored).
Fernandez also sits in the top three for the average number of blocks per match. Fernandez’s currently tally of 2.7 blocks per game can only be bettered by Chelsea’s Thiago Silva (3.5) and Arsenal’s Rob Holding (4.5).
If Fernandez and co are to defeat his compatriot Bielsa at St. James’s Park then Bruce needs to pick the Argentine.
Fernandez has the experience of playing in the Champions League and World Cup and in these difficult moments for the Magpies, it should be the former Swansea City man who is marshalling the club’s troubled backline on the pitch, not from the bench.