While the images of Allan Saint-Maximin back in training with the Newcastle United first-team were promising, Steve Bruce delivered some bad news while speaking in today’s press conference posted on the club’s official Twitter feed.
What’s the story?
Ahead of tomorrow’s game with Aston Villa – made all the more important following Burnley’s shock win over Liverpool – Bruce revealed Federico Fernandez was definitely of action for a while.
Ciaran Clark is a doubt while the Toon boss only said Fabian Schar ‘might be’ ruled out which doesn’t exactly sound like he’s heading into the game fully fit regardless of whether he eventually plays or not.
On Fernandez, Bruce said the Argentine is suffering from ‘hamstring and muscle problems’, suggesting he could be out for ‘a while’.
Fernandez averages the highest number of clearances per game in the squad (5.6, via WhoScored) as well as the most blocks over the same period (1.3) so not having him available will deprive Newcastle of their most resolute defender. Given Aston Villa average the third-highest number of shots per Premier League, that kind of last-ditch protection could be a major miss.
Clark being a doubt is equally worrying, even if he is out for a shorter period of time. Indeed, the 31-year-old is just behind Fernandez for clearances (4.5) and wins the most aerial duels per game on average (4), leaving the Magpies incredibly light.
Even if a potentially not-fully-fit Schar plays, there are only Jamaal Lascelles and an out-of-position Isaac Hayden currently available to partner him.
With Newcastle desperately needing a win after a thoroughly miserable run of form, this is extremely worrying.