Analysing Jamaal Lascelles heroic performance for Newcastle United against Derby
It was a huge decision to give Jamaal Lascelles the Newcastle captaincy at the beginning of the season, due to his inexperience. His rise was remarkable given that he barely featured for the side last season until the final ten matches. Rafa Benitez saw his natural leadership qualities and trusted the centre back with the armband ahead of Newcastle’s promotion hunt. Doubts arose during the first two fixtures, as the Magpies suffered back-to-back defeats and Lascelles was to blame for two of the three goals that were conceded.
This is where Benitez’s excellent man management skills came to the fore, as he ‘rested’ his captain for the third match of the season. Newcastle won that match convincingly and this relieved the pressure on Lascelles. The captain returned for the next game and the promotion favourites haven’t conceded a goal since. It has now been 405 minutes since the Magpies last conceded and it has coincided with the improved form of their young captain.
On Saturday, Newcastle travelled to Derby County, one of their promotion rivals, and managed to win comfortably. Although the home side had more possession (53%), they rarely threatened in the final third and this was due to the hours of defensive tactical work done on the training ground. Every player looks to know their role inside out and opposition teams have to rely on shots from range to test Matz Sels. On the pitch, Lascelles’ leadership has been central to the side’s recent success. He is vocal and ensures that the concentration remains over 90 minutes. That was evident against Derby and the 22-year-old deserves credit for how he has adapted to the captain’s role.
Derby were forced to rely on long balls and crosses into the box as they tried to break down the formidable Newcastle defence. Lascelles is excellent in the air and dominated the opposition strikers, winning seven of his eight aerial duels. His headed clearances were well aimed and he frequently relieved the pressure on his side, before moving his defence up the pitch. The former Nottingham Forest defender was a nuisance from set pieces and it was his movement that provided the space for Yoan Gouffran to score the first goal. His aerial presence is going to be an asset this season and that showed at the iPro Stadium.
His positioning was impressive throughout and it has been clear that he has improved under Benitez. It is a great education for one of the most promising centre backs in England, which he is taking full advantage of. He made two interceptions and seven clearances, displaying his impressive reading of the game. At the beginning of the season, Lascelles struggled to concentrate for the entire game and made some stupid errors. These have been eradicated from his game and he is now emerging as one of the most reliable centre-backs in the division.
Newcastle’s management of the game stood out on Saturday, as they successfully shut up shop after their opening goal. They required all of their quality and experience to ensure the match ended with a positive result. In possession, Lascelles was pivotal and his pass accuracy of 87% showed that he is comfortable with the ball, a part of the game that is of growing importance for centre-backs.
The Newcastle captain was given the man-of-the-match award, but it was his off-the-ball contribution that stood out. He was a true leader on the pitch, barking orders and making sure that everybody remained concentrated until the final whistle. It was an encouraging sign for Benitez, showing that the centre-back is growing into the captaincy. Although it was disappointing for Newcastle to suffer relegation, they have the opportunity to lay foundations and it is becoming clear that Jamaal Lascelles is a major part of their future.
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