Only 12 Premier League matches have been played by the Magpies since Newcastle United’s Fabian Schar scooped the North-East player of the year award for 2018/19 in January.
At the time it seemed a fitting choice, the Swiss central defender’s silky passing, with a 72.7 per cent accuracy, made him a valuable asset going forward for the Toon, while his level-headed reliable defending made him a deserved winner of the award. Yet somehow Schar now finds himself on the fringes of the squad, having appeared for a meagre five Premier League minutes since the division’s resumption.
To produce greater options further forwards Steve Bruce has cut Schar out of the equation at the back, reverting to a four-man defence. The Swiss international operated in a similar role to David Luiz under Antonio Conte, with protection either side of him giving the defender licence to play long raking passes, 4.1 on average per match, with only Jonjo Shelvey playing more, 5.6, excluding goalkeeper Martin Dubravka, via WhoScored.
Though since the switch in formation, talisman Jamaal Lascelles and Federico Fernandez have formed a budding partnership, which has excluded the 28-year-old. Lascelles and Fernandez have been selected alongside one another for the last six consecutive Premier League matches, during which they’ve kept three clean sheets. It is difficult to argue with the result the pair have produced together and they have formed a roadblock in front of the Swiss defender, but that does not mean Schar’s time at St James’ Park has ground to a halt.
Schar can still boast the highest average tackles per match of any Newcastle central defender this season, 1.9, over double Lascelles’, 0.6, as per WhoScored. Having provided 1.9 interceptions per 90 minutes as well, the 28-year-old also tops Newcastle’s charts in that department and has proven himself to be an adept ball winner.
Having altered the formation Bruce admitted to be prioritising options in forward areas, perhaps indicating why Schar’s excellent long-range passing is no longer required. Nevertheless, his consistent ability to regain possession still make the defender a valuable asset to the Magpies and should the form of Lascelles or Fernandez dip, an opportunity to break up the partnership and reclaim a spot in the starting eleven may present itself.
Positive news for Schar is that Bruce’s switch appears to be a purely tactical one, given he has outperformed his fellow centre backs statistically. The manager has also promised he will be rotating his squad in the final five matches of the season with safety all but secured, which may present Schar with the chance to snatch his spot in the starting eleven back permanently.