Is Achraff Lazaar the long term option for Newcastle United at left-back?
Newcastle managed to bounce back from their disappointing defeat at the weekend against Wolves with a win against the same side, albeit this time in the EFL Cup. As expected, Rafa Benitez made changes and opted to use two of his summer signings for the first time this season. Achraf Lazaar and Daryl Murphy both came into the starting XI, giving assured performances to help their side to a win. There is a big squad at St James’ Park, which has increased competition for places and after the loss at the weekend, there will be changes made to the starting eleven in the league.
It was a signing that went under the radar, but Achraf Lazaar is the perfect player for Newcastle United at the moment. The left-back has the ability to become a decent Premier League player and already has experience against some big sides while playing for Palermo in Serie A. Over the summer, he was linked with Fiorentina and West Ham, but it was a good decision to move to The Magpies.
At the moment, he is raw and a season in the Championship under Rafa Benitez will do him the world of good. It will allow him to get used to the physicality of the English game, but there is a clear route to Premier League football, as Newcastle are likely to be fighting for promotion.
During his debut on Tuesday, he was solid, but didn’t really stand out as a player that is ready to be a regular starter for Newcastle at the moment. They have a good left-back in Paul Dummett and it will be tough for Lazaar to become the first choice in that position. He looked nervy at times and there were a few occasions that he put his side under pressure. That said, he has the attributes to surpass Dummett over the course of the season and he has the right manager to guide him in that direction.
The former Palermo left-back showed his quality in the attacking half and he is a significant improvement on the Welsh international when it comes to contributing with the ball. He is quick and skillful when running with the ball, with the ability to beat players. Dummett doesn’t have this and it can leave the side unbalanced when attacking. The Welshman is a player that panics in the final third and for that reason, many regular watchers of Newcastle see his future at centre-back. The signing of Lazaar may allow him to move inside and that could help his game.
Although his crossing was inconsistent and he did waste a few good opportunities to put the defence under pressure, Lazaar impressed with the ball. He looked like a player that could excite supporters and that goes down well at St James’ Park. The club have a history of dynamic players and this new signing in particular could inject some excitement on the left side of defence. He may take a while to settle in and hit top form, but it won’t be boring to watch the left back in a black and white shirt.
Benitez is known for his penchant for rotation and Lazaar could find himself on the sidelines at the weekend when Newcastle travel to Aston Villa. It would be a risk to play him in such a big game, but as the season progresses, I expect him to make the left-back spot his own. He is solid defensively and offers a lot more going forwards. This is important for Newcastle, as sides have set up to frustrate them and they will need attacking full-backs to help break sides down. It was an encouraging debut, but there is a lot more to come from the left-back.
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