What’s been most interesting about Newcastle United’s recent run of good form is that it’s really been punctuated by the success of the defenders.
The Magpies’ back five have been making the difference at both ends of the pitch recently, with four of the team’s five goals in the victories over West Ham United and Bournemouth being scored by defenders.
It’s no surprise, then, that former England international Darren Bent has picked one of Newcastle’s defensive stalwarts out for praise: “I’d give it to Ciaran Clark, or [Fabian] Schar,” he told Football Insider of the Magpies’ captaincy. “You need someone who’s going to be at the forefront all the time, putting their body on the line, screaming at people – I’ve played with Ciaran Clark before and I know he can do that.”
The Sky Sports pundit is absolutely right to heap praise on the Republic of Ireland international. There’s no doubt that Clark is a leader, a reliable operator who would make a fine replacement for injured skipper Jamaal Lascelles over the next few months.
The statistics from this season demonstrate how crucial Clark has been to the recent improvement evident in Steve Bruce’s side. As per WhoScored.com, the 20-year-old is averaging 1.4 tackles, 5.4 clearances and one block per game.
Furthermore, he has scored twice in just five Premier League appearances and is achieving a fantastic average WhoScored rating per outing of 7.23.
So, yes, Clark has been excellent and he is a very important player for Newcastle at this moment in time. However, Bent goes too far to say he should be handed the captaincy in Lascelles’ stead.
The former Aston Villa man is a terrific leader, it’s true, but he has only just re-established himself in the Magpies’ first team. With Schar and Florian Lejeune on their way back to full fitness, can he be relied upon to be a consistent starter from now until the New Year?
The answer to that question is no. However, it’s yes when it comes to goalkeeper Martin Dubravka. The Slovakian is someone who leads by example, and he should undoubtedly receive the armband for the foreseeable future.