Jamaal Lascelles let Steve Bruce down on his return to the Newcastle United starting line-up after producing an uninspiring performance in Monday night’s 2-0 defeat to Chelsea.
Bruce opted to recall the 27-year-old at Stamford Bridge having lost Fabian Schar for the next eight weeks, after the Swiss centre-half was forced to undergo surgery having sustained knee ligament damage against Southampton.
Lascelles had missed the Saints win and his side’s prior loss at home to Crystal Palace with a hamstring injury sustained at Everton last month, just weeks after the Toon skipper had recovered from Covid-19.
Can Bruce keep Newcastle in the Premier League?
Yes, the Toon will stay up
No, the Magpies need a change
But Lascelles was unable to bring his leadership to the fore and lead Newcastle by example in south west London on his return to action, as United produced a lifeless showing at both ends of the field and ultimately deserved to be beaten – they managed just 35% possession and had just four shots on target.
The Magpies defence received a lot of criticism for their efforts at Stamford Bridge from Gary Neville, who noted on Sky Sports how Bruce’s backline were at sixes and sevens and pinpointed full-back Jamal Lewis for his role in Timo Werner’s goal.
“Just looking at it straight away from Newcastle’s point of view, there just seems to be gaps everywhere,” he said, via quotes by Chronicle Live. “You think to yourself, every time you see a team defend a corner, they normally have that [six-yard box] covered and they normally have three or four there [at the edge of the box].
“It’s a good delivery, but there’s just space everywhere. Werner is against Jamal Lewis, then it comes down to whether the man is going to do his job and Jamal Lewis is really, really poor, it’s poor defending, poor concentration. He’s sleeping.”
Yet, overall, Lewis’ performance was not the worst by a Newcastle player at Chelsea, having offered moments of merit going forward and left Stamford Bridge having taken more touches of the ball (62) than any of his teammates, per WhoScored.
But for Lascelles, there was little merit to his efforts as goals from Olivier Giroud and Werner dealt the Toon their 13th defeat of the Premier League season and placed the St. James’ Park natives firmly in a relegation fight with a resurgent Fulham side.
Lascelles had plenty of opportunities to set a positive tone for United as they fended off Chelsea’s advances, yet ended the night with only one successful tackle to his name and made no interceptions while those around him – Emil Krafth (1), Joe Willock (2), Isaac Hayden (3), Ciaran Clark (2) – each broke up the Blues’ attacks.
He made a team-high four clearances, and while that may speak to a sense of last-ditch defending, the Magpies could really have done with the skipper just bringing a bit of calm to the proceedings and trying to set up some Newcastle counter-attacks with some better passing out from the back rather than hoofing it away.
His only tackle of the game also came after just 15 minutes when he did superbly to deny Tammy Abraham a chance to score, intervening late to take the ball before the man inside his own box and without giving referee Peter Bankes a decision to make.
But that was by the by in the end, as Lascelles failed to keep his performance at that standard as Chelsea kept pushing. Far from befitting of the efforts of a captain and on his return to the starting eleven.
AND in other news – Exclusive: Steve Howey drops verdict on Graeme Jones replacing Steve Bruce…