Newcastle United return from their winter break to face Arsenal on Sunday with the sides level on 31 points. Steve Bruce is also boosted by the potential return of striker Joelinton, who was forced off in the FA Cup replay win over Oxford, along with Miguel Almiron and Andy Carroll. But an exciting prospect for Newcastle fans is that they could see the new arrival, Valentino Lazaro, make his first start.
The Austrian right-back joined in January on loan from Inter Milan and despite making a limited number of appearances (six) for the Serie A league leaders, there are some impressive signs. Relative to Bruce’s usual first-choice right-back DeAndre Yedlin, Lazaro makes fewer tackles per match, one, than the American’s 1.3, as well as recording fewer interceptions, 0.2, with Yedlin averaging 0.5 every 90 minutes. However, the pair have provided an equal number of clearances in their respective top-flights – 1.2 a game.
Though in an attacking sense Lazaro shines, having provided an enormous 1.5 key passes per match in Serie A. Meanwhile, Yedlin has recorded a meagre 0.4 key passes in his 12 Premier League appearances for Newcastle this term and is yet to provide an assist.
The 23-year-old new recruit also records 0.8 dribbles per match and could provide increased impetus to get Bruce’s side up the pitch. Having kept the lowest average possession in the Premier League, 39.4 percent, along with the third-lowest pass accuracy, 73.7 percent, Newcastle tend to rely on counter-attacks to create opportunities. Therefore Lazaro’s rapid dribbling ability could be a method of generating more chances.
Yedlin has been in particularly poor form of late, failing to record a match rating over 6.5 or above in his past six Premier League matches. An area he has been particularly weak in is retaining possession, he makes just 17.4 passes per game, with an accuracy of 76.1 percent. Meanwhile, Lazaro has recorded a much improved 25, with an accuracy of 78 percent, so he should be more assured in possession than the American.
With Yedlin struggling and Lazaro having had the winter break to integrate himself into the Magpies squad, the fixture against a struggling Arsenal side could be the ideal opportunity to give the January addition his first start.