Is DeAndre Yedlin a good long-term fit for Newcastle United?
Newcastle’s inability to defend has been a source of criticism and ridicule since the turn of the century. After a succession of back fours and defensive systems I think most would agree that the Rafa Benitez’s first priority is to mould his new team into a more combative and defensively minded unit. With that in mind, is the recent signing of American right back DeAndre Yedlin a move in the right direction? Can we consider him a long-term fit for the club or should expect to see sold off in a couple years, should Newcastle re-establish themselves in the Premier League?
Starting with the positives, Yedlin is obviously a top tier athlete. Fast, agile and powerful he would expect to physically outmatch any opponents at the Championship level (despite a previously suspect dietary regime when he arrived in England). His impressive physical attributes also allows him to compete well aerially despite his relative lack of height (5’8). On the pitch Yedlin is also extremely measured in possession, he was only disposed four times last season, and is very capable of taking on opposing wingers and full-backs one on one.
In contrast to the player he’s replacing, Darryl Janmaat, Yedlin also offers a more robust defensive presence, something the more attack-minded Dutchman had struggled with. Favourably for Newcastle’s rebuilding process, he’s also young, a hard worker and has a good deal of international experience with the US national team.
Yedlin, however, does have some serious areas for growth. Mentally, and to his credit has talked about his need for improvement publicly, Yedlin has shown that he is prone to poor positioning and a lack of defensive awareness. Whilst his physical gifts have often mitigated his mental deficiencies, against elite opposition it has led to a series of unnecessary fouls and yellow cards. I’m not proclaiming him to be the next coming of Titus Bramble but its definitely an area he needs to work on.
Going forward, and somewhat surprisingly considering the torrid time he gave Belgium at the 2014 World Cup, Yedlin’s attacking output in the English top flight has been severely lacking. Last season he crossed poorly (sixth worst in the league) and failed to overlap intelligently, despite being one of the leagues better dribbling full-backs. The result? Yedlin only assisted once and only created a total of nine chances throughout the season. Although Benitez not historically asking much of his full-backs going forward, Yedlin will have to work on his final product if he wants to stay at Newcastle in the long term.
Farmed out to Sunderland pretty soon after his arrival at Tottenham it maybe to unfair to judge Yedlin too critically considering he has never consistently played for anything other than a struggling team since his time in England. He is, however, approaching an age where he’ll soon have to start consistently delivering upon his potential. Indeed, a combination of regular football, the tutelage of Rafa’s coaching staff and a more forgiving Championship will present Yedlin with the best opportunity he’s ever had to develop.
Looking to the future becoming a mid tier Premiership right back probably represents Yedlin’s ceiling. If he can realise his potential and become a player akin to Bacary Sagna lite, defensively sound if not a little offensively limited, then I think Benitez will be extremely happy. As a fan, and in the context of the massive rebuilding project facing the club, that sounds just about right.
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