In just a few days, Newcastle will take the pitch to open the season against Tottenham. The occasion is the Magpies first Premier League match in 455 days. The last time they played in a Premier League fixture was against the Spurs to close 2016, and they thrashed the North London side 5-1.
While the same result isn’t guaranteed or even altogether likely, this is a fairly different side that will take the field to open the season. One of the hold overs from that 2016 team is among the group we will be talking about now. Time to look at the fullbacks.
Yes, the Welsh boy is still here, much to my chagrin. I have been very critical of Dummett during his time in Newcastle, but he is the last remaining starting defender from that 2016 squad that was relegated. Some summer signings have threatened Dummett’s place in the first team, but it is more than likely that he will start for Rafa Benitez on Sunday against Spurs.
He has some international experience having been capped for Wales twice already. He is in line for more opportunities in the future at just 25 years old. He will not blow you away with his athletic ability or football IQ, but Dummett is a solid option at left back. In my mind, he is a great rotational piece that could play meaningful minutes in cup matches or during a midweek game. He has a wealth of Premier League experience though with 66 appearances already in his short career in the English top division.
While not world class, Dummett is likely to hold down the fort at left back barring a late summer signing from Benitez.
The man who would be starting opposite Dummett against Spurs is nursing an ankle injury that will likely keep him out for the first fortnight of the season. He is also an American like myself. Yedlin has a bit of a reputation that precedes him, mostly from his time with the US national team. He possesses blazing speed that allows him to push opposing full backs and recover quickly on defense. He is by far the most promising defender Newcastle has at the moment with already 46 international caps to his name at just 24 years old and much to learn in terms of technical defending.
Yedlin’s biggest draw back is often his size. At 1.73 meters (5’8”), he struggles to win aerial battles. Another knock is his relatively poor crossing. The American right back has found ways to use his speed to get himself into dangerous positions, but often cannot capitalize because of his poor crossing. He boasts just a 17 percent success rate so far in his career.
Once healthy, Yedlin will be a mainstay on defense, looking to add to his 24 Premier League appearances to date.
In the mean time, former Atletico man Javier Manquillo will likely fill the void. Primarily a right back, Manquillo is versatile enough to play on the left side as well. The Spanish youngster fell out of favor for the La Liga giants and moved to Tyneside just a few weeks ago. He is familiar with the area though, having been on loan at Sunderland last season. He already knows that he is on the right side of the rivalry though. He had previous loan stints with Marseille and Liverpool before finally landing in Newcastle.
Manquillo is an interesting entity. He will be driven to prove himself in the Premier League. He did not progress as well as Atletico had hoped and was part of that dreadful Sunderland side of a year ago. While Manquillo is creative, he has yet to really make much of an offensive impact in the Premier League, with just one goal and no assists in 31 appearances. He plays consistent defense, but not at an elite level. We are all hoping that Benitez can find a way to bring out the best in him.
Once Yedlin is healthy, Manquillo will likely bounce around filling in for him or Dummett when the two need an off day. He will likely be Rafa’s go to replacement if either Yedlin or Dummett is not taking the field.
A true wild card, no one quite knows what to make of the presence of Jesus Gamez. Also coming from Atletico Madrid, Gamez arrived on a free transfer last year and never really got going. He is the veteran of the group at 32 years old. He could be a bench option for Benitez throughout the year or a spot starter in case of injury. The arrival of Manquillo pushes him to the fringe of first team options. It would not be a surprise to see him sold in January.
After arriving from Palermo in August of 2016, most assumed that he would challenge Massadio Haidara for a spot in the first team. Now, it seems that neither of them will be with the team much longer. Reportedly, an Italian team has already inquired about the availability of Lazaar. He has been a failed signing so far and seems unlikely to get any more chances to prove himself. The Moroccan left back could be on the move very soon.
One of the forgotten men at Newcastle a season ago, Haidara remains with the team with rumors of a transfer move on the horizon. He was brought in from AS Nancy in 2013 with the hopes that he could grow into the starting left back spot, but after a few seasons of injuries and inconsistent performances, it seems that Benitez is ready to move on. It is unlikely that Haidara will be suiting up for the Magpies at any point this season unless during an early round cup match.