While this Newcastle United squad undoubtedly has its fair share of holes, there is one area of the pitch where head coach Steve Bruce is rather spoiled for choice.
He may be light on attacking talent up front, a central midfielder short of a top class unit and bereft of a reliable right back; but Bruce is blessed with a succession of solid centre backs.
Ultimately, though, one or more of them is going to become disposable. We thought it might be Ciaran Clark when he was almost sold this summer, but it now appears it might be the veteran Federico Fernandez.
The Chronicle reported on Saturday that, despite the 32-cap Argentine international’s contract expiring at the end of the season, there’s been nothing yet in regards to talks over a new deal.
The player and his family are thought to be settled on Tyneside, but that’s no reason to extend his stay past its sell-by date. Indeed, the Newcastle fans should be glad no extension talks have taken place.
Simply put, Fernandez isn’t needed at St James’ Park anymore. The Carabao Cup defeat to Leicester City in August is the only game he’s started this season, demonstrating that he is clearly way behind Bruce’s other options in the centre half pecking order.
He’s 30 years of age now and perhaps the fifth or sixth choice centre back at Newcastle. When you consider that his reported wages of £43,000-per-week are the fourth highest at the club [Source: Spotrac], it makes no financial or footballing sense to keep him around.
The statistics, too, show that he lags behind the others in a few different defensive categories. When you compare his performances last season – where he actually played – to how the Magpies’ current back three (Clark, Jamaal Lascelles and Fabian Schar) have performed this term, it’s obvious that he’s no longer needed.
As per WhoScored.com, the former Swansea City man is second last of the four in average tackles and interceptions per game, while he is way behind them all in blocks per outing. His average WhoScored rating per game of 6.62 was also the worst of the quartet.
There’s really no point keeping him on beyond this season. He’s simply not worth the club’s significant financial outlay at this point – and Florian Lejeune’s not even back from injury yet!