Steve Bruce can utilise Isaac Hayden at right-back when Newcastle United visit relegation rivals West Bromwich Albion on Sunday after potentially losing Emil Krafth to injury.
That’s according to Chronicle Live, who note that the Sweden international was taken off with a shin issue against Wolverhampton Wanderers over the weekend.
Krafth underwent scans alongside Allan Saint-Maximin and Miguel Almiron to assess the situation, but any lay-off could leave Bruce without a recognised right-sided full-back at the Hawthorns.
Who should replace Krafth vs WBA if ruled out?
Newcastle have been without first-choice right-back Javier Manquillo since beating Southampton with nine-men in January, as the Spaniard is still sidelined with an ankle injury despite returning to light training sessions.
Manquillo was working away from the first-team group last week after Bruce stated that the 26-year-old was “doing very well, better than what we thought,” having been ruled out for six-to-eight weeks as a long-term absentee alongside Fabian Schar and Callum Wilson.
To now lose Krafth could leave Bruce without a recognised option against West Brom, after sanctioning the free transfer of DeAndre Yedlin to Galatasaray on Deadline Day of the recent winter transfer market.
Injuries and illness have already forced Bruce to look elsewhere in his ranks to fill gaps in defence this season, with Jacob Murphy fielded as a right-back on four occasions in the Premier League.
Hayden also faced Leeds United in the role during January’s 2-1 defeat at St. James’ Park, while being utilised at centre-half four times – the most recent coming against Southampton while without Jamaal Lascelles due to a hamstring strain and Federico Fernandez with a calf issue.
Bruce has no issue with playing his £9m-rated midfield anchor in the Toon backline, having signed the Arsenal product on loan while in charge of Hull City following a glowing report from his then-Chief Scout, Stan Ternent.
“He’s been very valuable because of his versatility, of course, and that helps enormously,” Bruce said of Hayden, via quotes by The Shields Gazette last month. “Stan Ternent, my old Chief Scout – who watched Isaac as a boy when he was at Arsenal – always said his best position, he thought, was at centre-back.
“Certainly, when you see him perform the way he did [against Southampton] and the way he has done numerous times at centre-back, then it does give you food for thought. He’s also played right-back, which he does very, very well too.”
Hayden’s performance at right-back at home to Leeds earlier in the year returned three successful tackles from four attempts, along with one clearance and two interceptions, per WhoScored.
No Newcastle player to have featured in the role during a Premier League fixture this term has averaged a higher number of successful or attempted tackles to date, with Manquillo offering the next-highest number of successful efforts (2.2) and Yedlin for attempts (3).
Murphy has averaged the highest volume of interceptions (1.5) from players to have featured at right-back more than once, while Yedlin (2.6) leads Krafth (2.4) for clearances.
But, as Murphy may be needed in attack with Saint-Maximin and Almiron potentially missing on Sunday and with Yedlin now gone, Hayden could be Bruce’s secret weapon against West Brom.