Our team-by-team guide to the new Fantasy Premier League (FPL) season continues with this preview of Newcastle United.
We’ll delve into the Magpies’ numbers in the article below but remember that you can conduct your own FPL research into Steve Bruce’s side with our comprehensive Opta player and team data in our Premium Members Area.
|Total||Rank v other Premier League sides|
|Shots in the box conceded||350||17th|
|Shots on target conceded||188||17th|
|Big chances conceded||73||=12th|
|Expected goals conceded (xGC)||58.73||17th|
There isn’t much to champion in the Newcastle defence based on last season’s evidence.
United were in the bottom four for everything from shots allowed to expected goals conceded (xGC), with only relegated Sheffield United and West Bromwich Albion keeping fewer clean sheets.
Aside from the obvious point about the modest quality of players at Bruce’s disposal, there were a number of significant reasons for the creakiness at the rear.
One factor was player unavailability.
Newcastle were the only Premier League club who didn’t have a single player banking 30+ starts (see above), with the constant chopping and changing at the back – mostly enforced by injury and a particularly damaging coronavirus outbreak at the club – unsurprisingly affecting the collective defensive displays.
First-choice goalkeeper Martin Dubravka (£4.5m) started just over a third of the Magpies’ league matches, club captain Jamaal Lascelles (£4.5m) was missing for exactly half of the campaign and midfield shield Isaac Hayden (£4.5m) was bedridden by COVID-19 and then missed the run-in through injury.
Centre-half options Federico Fernandez, Fabian Schar, Ciaran Clark and Paul Dummett (all £4.5m) also had significant periods on the sidelines.
Another aspect is the ghost of Rafael Benitez.
Bruce has repeatedly made noises about moulding Newcastle into a more attacking unit ever since his appointment two years ago, in a desperate attempt to escape the shadow of his more-revered predecessor.
Benitez favoured a pragmatic approach with the limited squad members available, with Newcastle finishing among the top eight teams for fewest goals conceded in both 2017/18 and 2018/19.
Bruce’s fixation on putting his own stamp on the club has resulted in the Magpies shipping a combined 25 more goals in the subsequent two campaigns, with a Gameweek 30 formation switch last season his latest attempt to shake things up.
3-5-2: MORE ATTACKING, LESS SECURE
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