A lot of people were focused on the performance of Karl Darlow after Saturday’s draw with Brentford, particularly the first goal. It is unfortunate for Darlow that throughout his career he seems to have himself set as the number one and then makes an error that sees his place in the team lost. Carrow Road 2017 saw him make an error as well and be replaced by Elliott as Rafa lost faith in him as the goalkeeper of choice. However, I want to focus on a player that seems to have become the easy change for each manager, who has never really let us down, but seems to be out the team at the first opportunity – our Spanish marauding full back, Javier Manquillo.

Signing in summer 2017 as we returned to the top flight he came straight into the team on the opening day against Spurs as part of a new look back line alongside Clark, Lejeune and Dummett. Javi kept his place for the next three league games, before DeAndre Yedlin took his place. Then with Dummett injured he was asked to come in and play left back for a run of games. Here comes the recurring theme of Manquillo’s Newcastle career, some effective displays even when asked to play in a position that does not seem natural, but then discarded due to any change in circumstances.

Yedlin was far faster than Manquillo and did offer more of an attacking overlap to assist Ritchie and they did seem to have a good understanding. But the next eighteen months saw us watching opposition players target balls over Yedlin’s head, he was often caught out of position and not tall enough to cut out balls that stretched us. His pace in the Championship meant he could recover a lot but that was less effective in the Premier League. For me Manquillo was a weaker attacking option, but a better defensive one. However, with the return of Dummett from injury Manquillo was reduced to a lot of substitute appearances, despite appearing in half the games.

The second season followed a similar pattern, however, by the end of the run of games that was firing us up the table Manquillo was regularly being used when more defensive cover was required. As the team won through a Perez goal away at Leicester, the manager seemed to appreciate the extra cover he offered. The final home game under Rafa saw Yedlin discarded from the squad and Manquillo making the right back spot his own.

So he had won the trust of Benitez, what would happen when Steve Bruce came in?

Manquillo was in the side for the opening defeat to Arsenal, but then Emil Krafth was brought into the side. Reduced to being a Pardew style eightieth minute sub of a full back, Manquillo was treated like an added extra. Yedlin recovered from injury to not just get back in the squad, but straight back into the team. It then came to light that Bruce was allegedly not impressed with his lack of English, which makes sense when looking at his reduced role last season (only thirteen league appearances) and the fact that Jacob Murphy kept being used in his role, but we kept conceding goals with balls over the top of the wing backs.

Now Eddie Howe has arrived and Manquillo is back out the team.

His goal at Old Trafford came on one of his four league appearances this season. Murphy started the season as the right wing back, we were awful. Manquillo came in and played well but is now back out again.

Is it the lack of English? This would be an acceptable explanation, except it doesn’t seem to be a language barrier that stops Murphy and the defenders near him being able to defend. They can all speak English and they can’t get organised. Nor does it seem to be a problem for Manquillo, as when he plays we look safer defensively down the right hand side.

Is it the lack of attacking? Again I think this is an underrated part of Manquillo’s game. In my opinion he is a better technical player than Murphy. He might not be as helpful on set plays, but he is good with the ball at his feet, can dig out a cross when needed. He lacks lightening pace, but as with Yedlin, Murphy is often caught out by balls over his head, particularly when he is trying to play narrow and the opposition go wide.

The one thing it can’t be is that anyone at the club thinks Murphy is a better defender. Watch the second goal back on Saturday. About five minutes before Pinnock is left completely alone at the back post, Murphy who is supposed to look at this area and tell the defence what is happening, doesn’t appear to spot it. He also has another two defenders behind him. The free kick is over hit and Pinnock could not turn it back into the box. We got away with it. Next Brentford attack, ball to the back post, Murphy has gone narrow with Schar, doesn’t even look over his shoulder. Ball comes over his head to Nico Henry … goal!

In my opinion we have a solid, but unspectacular, right back who can definitely solve some of the issues we have with defending on that side. We may lose some pace and additional attacking (I question this) but we need to stop conceding two goals a game. We need Manquillo in unless Murphy can hugely improve.

 

Stephen Ord      @smord84