It was a bit of a surprise when Sven Botman did not start the game against Nottingham Forest. Newcastle United chased the Dutch centre-back for months before finally managing to sign him from Lille this summer, despite there being heavy competition from AC Milan for his signature. Many already believe that he is the best defender at St James’ Park.
Yet, Botman found himself sitting on the bench against Nottingham Forest, as Eddie Howe decided to give the nod to Fabian Schar and Dan Burn in the heart of defence.
That proved to be the right decision as well. Not only did Newcastle United end up keeping a clean sheet on the day but Schar got his name on the scoresheet as well. Botman made his competitive debut for the Magpies, but only as a substitute late into added time.
It felt more like the debut of an academy player rather than a big name summer signing. Howe has explained his thinking behind the decision to leave Botman on the bench though. As reported by The Shields Gazette, the Newcastle United manager said:
"“Sven was a long-term target for us. We were delighted to sign. I think this period, however long it is before he gets his opportunity to start, will do him the world of good. He’ll get to know the league, he’ll get to know the speed.“I’ve got no doubts about him as a player. He’ll be a top player for this football club in my opinion. But there’s real competition for places. Dan and Fabian and Jamaal, they’re not going to give their shirts us easily.“That’s a battle I’ll love to see unfold, and knowing I’ve got that quality certainly bodes well for the season.”"
Howe explains why Botman did not start for Newcastle United against Nottingham Forest
There is very little doubt about the fact that Botman will be an important player for Newcastle United this season. He has already shown glimpses of his quality in pre-season and looks like a very good addition to this squad.
At the same time though, this is not the first time that Howe has allowed someone to settle into the Premier League, and not start them from the very beginning.
Newcastle United fans should not have any concerns about Botman not starting on the day. He will get his chances to shine soon. But on the other hand, the performances that Schar and Burn put in on the day deserve praise and if they can continue performing like this, there could be some real competition for the centre-back spots.