After what we’ll call a long weekend, we get back at it with the player-by-player reviews of the 2015-16 Newcastle United season. There was very little to be positive around the club this last season in spite of Steve McClaren’s attempts to use neurolinguistics to convince us otherwise... so let’s talk about a player who engendered a bit of excitement in his limited amount of time on the pitch: Kevin Mbabu. (Reports that he is still holding Pedro in his pocket are unconfirmed at this time).
Logan: Mbabu is an interesting case merely because he appeared in just two Premier League matches. However in the time he did spend on the pitch the 21-year-old showed some promise, but too small of a sample size to really delve into his ability as a whole. That being said, he did appear to make the most of his time, and Rafa’s faith in his potential was shown with his two-year extension. What will be interesting is the 16-17 campaign, especially if Janmaat bolts for Italy, as you would have to think Mbabu would be a totally viable replacement at right back. (
Brian: Another bitten by injury. That Rafa felt it worthy to retain him for the 2016/17 season is enough for me. His lone start against Chelsea back in September might have given insight into his future ceiling. While that match also shone as an example of Newcastle's mental gaps on the back line (again, see my McClaren qualifier) it's simply not possible to say how good or bad this youngster will be over the duration of a season. He's worth the time investment to see what's in the mystery box.
Eric: Young Mbabu looked like he was going to take the world by storm after his impressive debut against Chelsea back in September only to fall back to earth the following week when Newcastle were absolutely demolished by Manchester City and he was substituted off shortly after half time. 7 minutes of late game sub time would be the only other appearance Kevin would make for Newcastle this season making for a peculiar, albeit promising, first season with the first team. Assuming he doesn't pull a Haïdara and succumb to the injury bug, his strong showing against Chelsea indicates that he has potential. I'm excited that the club signed him to another short-term deal and a year in the Championship could be exactly what he needs to mark his place as a first team regular.
Jim: Kevin Mbabu’s season (as mentioned above) was defined in a very encouraging and positive manner by his start against Chelsea. I don’t think that anyone expected us to even keep the result close once Dummett and Haïdara were out injured... in fact most would have expected Jack Colback to slot in there and figure out where to find a midfielder to go alongside Vurnon Anita. In any event, he did start and he was dazzling and solid on both ends of the pitch against the defending Premier League champions (this was, of course, before we knew they were crap and then they became not crap again). Health is a concern, but if he can stay healthy, he stands to be a player that Rafa can rely upon for the foreseeable future.
Composite Grade: 4.0/4.0 (A)*
*All respondents graded Kevin incomplete but the heck with it. Let’s get carried away!