Newcastle United will be without their main man between the sticks for the next month, and this places more pressure on the shoulders of Jamaal Lascelles and the back-line to perform at an elite level.
Earlier today our site reacted to the unfortunate news of Martin Dubravka’s knee injury. The Slovakian shot stopper damaged a ligament in his knee against Southampton, and he will be forced to miss between three and five games for Newcastle United.
In his absence, Karl Darlow will have to step up and show what he can do as the team’s primary keeper. Newcastle United are currently eight points clear of the relegation zone and that provides the team with a decent cushion, however, any critical errors from Darlow in consecutive games could drag the Magpies back into the relegation mix.
That being said, it would be completely wrong and absurd to place all of the pressure on the club’s second-string keeper. With Dubravka out, the pressure to perform will be on Jamaal Lascelles and his teammates on the back-line.
The Magpies have not been as solid as they were in recent years. The players are the same, and quality reinforcements were even brought in during the January transfer window, but the club’s ultra-defensive tactics invited the attack in every game, and at times some teams managed to score multiple goals.
On four separate occasions this season, Newcastle United allowed teams to score at least three goals, with Leicester City handing the Magpies their heaviest defeat of the season (5-0). In recent weeks, however, the back-line has woken up and claimed back-to-back clean sheets against two teams that possess two strikers who have scored in double figures this season.
Steve Bruce’s new 4-2-3-1 formation has given new life to Newcastle United as the team now enjoys more possession – 58% over the last two weeks – and they are creating more scoring chances. In addition, this new shape has given the back-line time to breathe and recover, and this will be critical over the next month without Dubravka in goal.
Newcastle United are fortunate that half of their remaining games are against relegation-threatened teams, but at the same time that means those clubs will be playing with maximum effort and urgency to save their seasons. In other words, Darlow must be ready to make some big saves to keep his side in games, but the back-line must be prepared to provide sufficient support for their vulnerable keeper.