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Newcastle Roster Preview 2015-16: The Defenders

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The 2014-15 season was plagued with defensive woes. Will this season be a better showing for our back 4?

Stu Forster/Getty Images

Last season was one of the worst defensive showings I can remember in recent Newcastle history. The lack of fitness, injuries, and suspensions left us down to the bare bones. All of these came to a point at a time of the season where we needed a solid foundation the most. Many of the same faces have returned for this season with a few new ones. Do we have the required personnel to succeed this season?

Returning Defenders

Fabricio Coloccini

Has not featured this preseason due to Achilles injury, and he is in a race against time to be ready for our season opener. The 33 year old Argentinian has been rumored to reunite with Alan Pardew at Crystal Palace. Despite the rumors, he has reportedly told Steve McClaren he wants to end his career with Newcastle United.

The 7 year Toon veteran's style has not changed despite losing a step. His play was extremely aggressive last season. It led to a lot of headaches for his fellow defenders and goalkeepers. It also resulted in conceding penalty kicks and getting sent off against Everton in March.

Coloccini's leadership last season simply was not enough. If he is to remain in the Newcastle squad this season, he will need to stay fit and play a smarter game to compensate for his reduced pace.

2014-15 Premier League Season Stats

  • Games Played - 32
  • Goals Scored - 1
  • Assists - 0
  • Yellow Cards - 3
  • Red Cards - 1

Mike Williamson

Williamson, like Coloccini, is one of the remaining players from the brief dip in the Championship, and many wonder how he has stayed this long. His lack of pace and inability to mark in the box make me wonder how he has remained a Premier League defender over the years. It was very obvious he was capable of only making three decisions: Playing the ball to Coloccini, a back-pass to Krul, or hoofing the ball up field/out of bounds.

Despite his play last year, he has seen a lot of playing time this preseason. He did show some worth against Borussia Mönchengladbach, when he nearly scored on a corner. It was something they could not get him to do last season, despite his height over everyone else in the squad. I personally would not include him in my starting back line, but I suspect we will see him in the line-up against Southampton to start the season.

2014-15 Premier League Season Stats

  • Games Played - 31
  • Goals - 1
  • Assists - 1
  • Yellow Cards - 5
  • Red Cards - 2*
*Both red cards were a result of a second yellow card

Steven Taylor

Steven Taylor returns to the squad after rupturing his Achilles on New Year's Day. He also is remembered for bashing his head on the post in the Tyne-Wear derby in December. After missing half the season last year, Taylor looks determined to show his best skill in the final year of his contract.

The local lad shows his passion and determination to play for the Toon. Nobody can take that away from him. At his age, his lack of leadership skills and quick thinking will leave him lacking in opportunities to make it into this squad this season. I expect to see him on the bench frequently this season, but he will only start if we suffer injuries in the back.

2014-15 Premier League Season Stats

  • Games Played - 10
  • Goals - 1
  • Assists - 0
  • Yellow Cards - 2
  • Red Cards - 1*
*Red card was a result of a second yellow card

Paul Dummett

Paul Dummett comes into this season battling for his spot in the Newcastle squad.

Dummett proved to be a very versatile defender last year. He covered both the left and center back positions in matches last season. Of all the fans I spoke to last season and this summer, many believe he is more suited in the middle than at left back. I tend to agree with them.

This season will see the young Welsh international fighting for playing time. I expect Haïdara to the lineup at left back, and he will be in stiff competition in the middle with Steven Taylor, Mike Williamson, and new lad Chancel Mbemba alongside Fabricio Coloccini. If Colo isn't fit for opening weekend, and he has managed to shake off an injury picked up in June while on international duty with Wales I expect him to be in the middle.

2014-15 Premier League Season Stats

  • Games Played - 25
  • Goals - 0
  • Assists - 0
  • Yellow Cards - 4
  • Red Cards - 0

Massadio Haïdara

Haïdara is also one of those coming off a major injury late in the season. After undergoing knee surgery in April, Haïdara has proven he is back and ready to redeem himself after his shortened season.

His play through the preseason was solid. The lone scar on his performances is the Eric Cantona-like flying kick in Sacramento. He has not been afraid to get forward in the attack, and he has been encouraged to continue this play. Look for him to be our starting left back come August 9th. Hopefully his play with Anita and/or Aarons can prove to be as dangerous as Janmaat's last season.

2014-15 Premier League Season Stats

  • Games Played -15
  • Goals - 0
  • Assists - 1
  • Yellow Cards - 0
  • Red Cards - 0

Daryl Janmaat

What else can be said about Janmaat's performance last season that wasn't already said? His consistent performances and work rate every week made him a fan favorite all season long, and many of them thought he would be wearing the captain's armband this season. It doesn't help when you produce tackles like this, especially on Mario Balotelli.

After last season, it looks like his skills will play a vital role. However, I do not think our attack will not rely on them as much. With fellow Dutch internationals Gini Wijnaldum, and Siem de Jong in central midfield, their transition play and general understanding of each other can yield some dangerous goal scoring opportunities.

2014-15 Premier League Season Stats

  • Games Played - 37
  • Goals - 1
  • Assists - 6
  • Yellow Cards - 6
  • Red Cards - 1*
*Red card was a result of a second yellow card

Vurnon Anita

Although Vurnon Anita is listed on Newcastle's website as a midfield, he has split his appearances as a defender last season. He was a fill-in left and right back in the last couple months of the season while our injury and suspension woes steeply mounted. His effort, combined with the rest of our makeshift back four, certainly was not enough to yield a single victory, but his attitude as a team player is something we can all respect.

His versatility was also in play this preseason. He has played both as a defender and winger on the left side, as his pace and crosses have proven tough to handle for defenders. We can all agree he is not your first choice fullback on either side, and I'm sure it's also doubtful he thinks that. If injury woes creep up down the stretch, Vurnon Anita is one you can trust to stand in whatever gap appears in the squad.

2014-15 Premier League Season Stats

  • Games Played - 19
  • Goals - 0
  • Assists - 0
  • Yellow Cards - 3
  • Red Cards - 0

The Newcomers

Chancel Mbemba

Regardless of the controversy surrounding this young DR Congo international's age, this kid can play. His pace is out of this world, and he is one that will definitely punch above his size.

Standing just a hair under 6 feet tall, Chancel Mbemba is one of the most versatile young center backs. He comes highly rated by those who have seen him, including Sky Sports' Pete Graves.

He is not a stranger to scoring, either. In his two seasons at Anderlecht, he bagged 9 goals (3 in the Champions League!) in 78 total appearances.

He featured in Newcastle's final friendly against Borussia Mönchengladbach on August 1, but his eligibility against Southampton remains in question. Despite the FA granting his work permit on July 30, he still needs his overseas visa in order to play. After the FA's ruling, this should be considered a formality according to the Guardian. It is only a matter of when, not if, he receives his visa that prevents him from playing.

2014-15 Jupiler Pro League (Belgium) & Champions League Stats

  • Games Played - 26 (6 in CL)
  • Goals - 2 (Both in CL)
  • Assists - 0
  • Yellow Cards - 5 (All in league play)
  • Red Cards - 0

Jamaal Lascelles

Like his Nottingham Forest teammate Karl Darlow, he looks to start the season with no shot at making the starting XI. His huge 6'2" frame may be intimidating, but his skills do not yet match up to his size.

Their manager at Forest was ex-Newcastle Defender Stuart Pearce. According to this Guardian article earlier this year, he believes the character is there with Lascelles, but he is not ready for the Premier League. He goes on to say that we should be patient with him, as he still has a lot of potential.

He showed his need for improvement very early on in his Newcastle career. His clumsy tackle early in the first USA match against Club Atlas gave the Mexican side an obvious penalty. He did show his potential after settling down in that match.

I am not one to rest on potential. I can only hope that McClaren can unlock his potential soon. His size and strength could be a major asset as a Premier League defender, but only if he has the skills to back them up.

2014-15 Championship Stats (On loan with Nottingham Forest)

  • Games Played - 25
  • Goals - 1
  • Assists - 0
  • Yellow Cards - 6
  • Red Cards - 0

The Bottom Line

We are very thin in this area of our squad, and reinforcements are needed quickly. We desperately need another squad defender that can cover both the center and right back. We also desperately need another established central defender that can take over for the aging Coloccini and lead this young back 4.

Predicted Southampton Starting Back 4

Right Back - Daryl Janmaat

Center Back - Steven Taylor

Center Back - Mike Williamson

Left Back - Massaido Haïdara

Ideal Southampton Starting Back 4

Right Back - Daryl Janmaat

Center Back - Paul Dummett

Center Back - Chancel Mbemba

Left Back - Massaido Haïdara