The Frenchman is on the brink of returning from yet another major injury, and is expected to be back in first team action after the international break.
Bruce is very excited to have him: “The big thing is keeping them all [his centre halves] happy, which is hard, absolutely hard,” he said at his pre match press conference, as per The Chronicle.
“I wouldn’t be happy if I was a player no matter where I was if I didn’t play on a Saturday. That becomes the biggest part of management. Lejeune is coming back and people tell me he is probably the best one. I do not know because I have not seen him yet. The kid has had two cruciates so he has had a tough time but we are fortunate in that respect.”
This is interesting. In some ways it’s strange that Bruce would even come out with this. How would you feel if you’re Fabian Schar or Jamaal Lascelles and you hear your head coach saying that he’s been told one of the other centre backs is a better player than you? He’s not saying it’s his opinion, but it’s still a slightly strange thing to say. However, the statistics do slightly support his statement. If you compare what Lejeune did last season before getting injured to what Newcastle’s current back three (Lascelles, Federico Fernandez and Ciaran Clark) have produced this term, the Frenchman comes off rather well. As per WhoScored.com, the 28-year-old averaged more tackles and interceptions per game than the current trio, while he drew the joint second most offsides and produced the second most blocks per outing. Furthermore, his average WhoScored rating per game of 6.95 was second only to Clark’s tally of 7.08 this season, and Lejeune played three times as many games last campaign as the Irishman has this time round.