While Newcastle United have strengthened midfield and attack this summer with the additions of Sandro Tonali and Harvey Barnes, injury to star defender Sven Botman has left them short on options defensively.

Despite bringing in Tino Livramento and Lewis Hall, who are hot prospects at full-back, the Magpies felt adding quality cover at centre-back wasn’t a priority, and they are already paying the price.

Newcastle were outclassed by Brighton on Saturday evening, and they were torn to shreds by teenage sensation Evan Ferguson, who became only the fourth player in Premier League history to score a hat-trick at 18-years-old.

With the Seagulls inflicting a third defeat in four matches on Eddie Howe’s side, the most alarming issue to come from the match was how easily they were cut apart defensively, leaving them fearing the worst ahead of their Champions League campaign.

The devastating injury to Botman meant Howe had to shuffle Dan Burn into a more familiar role at centre-back, partnering Fabian Schar, but on the evidence of his performance, Newcastle’s unwillingness to strengthen that position has cost them.

How did Dan Burn perform against Brighton?

Dan Burn: Newcastle sign Brighton centre-back in £13m deal | Transfer  Centre News | Sky Sports
Having starred as a left-back throughout last season, Burn’s return to centre-back was unsuccessful as the 6 foot 6 colussus struggled to live with Brighton’s attacking trio of Koaru Mitoma, Solly March and Ferguson.

The Seagulls’ agile and quick forward line exploited Burn’s immobility by launching a number of attacks down the right flank while the piercing runs of March in behind dragged him out of position with Ferguson taking full advantage of the space afforded to him centrally.

Burn’s struggles defensively were highlighted in several departments as the 31-year-old only won one of his seven ground duels, committed four fouls, lost possession five times and was dribbled past twice, according to Sofascore.

While this performance is a cause for concern moving forward, it also lays as a reminder that Newcastle could rue not moving for one of their defensive targets and one of those was Bayer Leverkusen’s Edmond Tapsoba, who would have been a huge upgrade on Burn.


How good is Edmond Tapsoba?

Newcastle were in the race to sign centre-back Tapsoba earlier on in the summer as Leverkusen slapped a £50m price tag on their star defender, who was deemed as a long-term successor to Fabian Schar.

Bayer Leverkusen: Edmond Tapsoba empfiehlt sich als neuer Elfer-Schütze |  Sport | BILD.de

The 24-year-old has risen to prominence as one of the Bundesliga’s brightest talents and having starred in his side’s run to the Europa League semi-final last season, it is clear to see why clubs are circling for his signature.
Tapsoba excelled against his positional peers when comparing various parts of his game across last season, including his ability to carry the ball long distances, defend in one-vs-ones and provide an exquisite passing range to his side.

The £43k per-week “monster”, as lauded by scout Antonio Mango, ranked in the top 2% for ball recoveries (8.46), top 10% for progressive passes (5.30), top 13% for progressive carries (1.25) and top 14% for successful take-ons (0.50), all per 90 via FBref.


Despite playing at left-back last season, Burn falls well below Tapsoba in each of those key metrics, recording 4.8 ball recoveries, 3.41 progressive passes, 0.84 progressive carries and 0.32 successful take-ons.


Newcastle are transitioning into a side that has more possession as confirmed by their average of 49.5% this season and Howe needs players who are comfortable in possession, but at present, they don’t currently have that, especially in defence.


Without ball-playing defender Botman in their side, Burn is attempting to fill a void that he isn’t capable of filling, especially when it comes to progressing play from deep, spraying long passes and driving his team forward.


For the short-term, while the Netherlands international is absent, Newcastle are going to be held back by their inability to build from the back and having already suffered for their defensive misunderstanding against Brighton, ignoring their need for defensive cover is costing them.


Although signing Tapsoba would have cost upwards of £50m, he would have brought his ball-playing capabilities and European experience to the party, placing Newcastle in good stead for their Champions League challenge.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *