After the news broke last week that Newcastle defender DeAndre Yedlin had sustained a bad knee injury in his side’s 2-1 loss to Tottenham in the season opener, manager Rafa Benítez said he planned to deploy new signing Federico Fernandez as a replacement.
Benítez’s rationale was that it would provide some defensive stability to his side, particularly giving The Magpies some aerial dominance. But this is a worrying way to look at it from Benítez, and the Spaniard has more positive options to chose from, especially in light of who they face this weekend.
Newcastle will be relieved after the news that Yeldin’s injury is not as bad as it first seemed, but they still have a job to do before he returns, and Javier Manquillo is the man to do that.
Manquillo (valued at £4.5m on Transfermarkt.co.uk) is a fairly uninspired alternative to Yedlin, but is still the best fit. The 24-year-old isn’t the most attacking player, but will still bring more to the table than Fernandez. The former Liverpool man played 21 times for Newcastle in the Premier League last season so is certainly up to scratch.
The fact that Newcastle lack a like-for-like replacement for Yedlin exposes their poor summer spending. But Manquillo is certainly a solid deputy. Salomón Rondón is in line for a potential start on Saturday, and the big Venezuelan will want as much delivery into box from wide as possible. Although Manquillo will not be able to provide that as well and as consistently as Yedlin, he will certainly do a better job than Fernandez.
The message that Benítez will send to the rest of the league if he fields Fernandez at fullback is also not desired. Replacing Yedlin with a centre back would show that the Newcastle boss lacks faith in his defenders by creating a makeshift defensive line. Displaying a lack of belief in your team will fill any opposition with confidence.
Newcastle travel to newly promoted Cardiff this Saturday, in a game they will hope to win. Turn up with a team that is too defensive and they may not get the result they wished for.
Benítez will miss his American speedster, but has nothing to worry about.