Following an injury to Florian Lejeune last season, the Argentine made four appearances in the last eight games as Benitez’s tenure in charge of the Magpies drew to a close (he didn’t feature at all in the previous 10) and has already played 15 Premier League this season under the management of Steve Bruce. Having chipped in with a late winner against Southampton – as well as a goal against West Ham United – the 30-year-old was handed the captain’s armband for the recent FA Cup draw at Rochdale.
So, having seen his stock rise on Tyneside in general, a closer look into his defensive output shows just how important he actually is to the causee these days. Indeed, Twitter account @TheOther14 – a statistical outlet focusing on teams outside the top six in the Premier League – have shown that the former Swansea ace is all but leading the way when it comes to blocks and clearances per game this term.
Aside from Aston Villa’s Kortney Hause (who has played over 600 fewer minutes than Fernandez), no one has a better average on those metrics over the course of the season. In fact, not a single player included in the list below who has played over 1000 minutes has recorded more, making one every 8.57 minutes.
Combined Blocks and Clearances per 90 from TheOther14 after #PL week 21. @Other14The @Kortney_30 for @AVFCOfficial ahead of @pajarofernandez for @NUFC. #AVFC #NUFC #AFCB #NCFC #Wolves #WatfordFC #CPFC #SaintsFC pic.twitter.com/ZNdUn8v2ek
— TheOther14 (@Other14The) January 7, 2020
As per Transfermarkt, the 32-cap international is out of contract this summer though contributions such as these surely suggest the club should be rushing to offer him a new one. The likes of Lejeune, Ciaran Clark, Jamaal Lascelles and Fabian Schar do form a strong backline – as their conceding of just 48 goals last season proved – but, as it stands, no one out is out-performing Fernandez.
After all, Lejuene has proven to be fairly injury-prone over the last two season (he’s missed 42 games through two long-term injuries) and Schar was linked with a move to Italy over the course of the summer. With Clark himself out of contract just a year later, it’s not as if the Newcastle backline looks nailed down for the future, despite it being seemingly well-stocked for the time being.
Proving himself as a palpable goal threat from set-pieces, as well as a resolute defender, decision-makers behind the scenes at St. James’ Park should be prompted into action to try and extend his stay.
Would you like to see Fernandez stay? Join the discussion by commenting below…