Magpies sign Chancel Mbemba: Can he toughen up Newcastle defence?
Newcastle United have completed their long-mooted capture of defender Chancel Mbemba, with the new Mapgies man believed to have been snapped up for around £8.5m.
— Newcastle United FC (@NUFC) July 30, 2015
Speaking of his St James’ Park switch, the former Anderlecht star said: “I’m very, very happy to be here. This is the biggest league in the world and I’m very proud to wear the shirt for this team.” So, what can the DR Congo international bring to the northeast outfit?
Only basement club QPR (73) conceded more Premier League goals than the Toon last term after 63 goals in 38 matches; an alarming average of almost one-and-two-thirds per game.
For all of the attacking improvements made to the Magpies, who are 11/4 with Coral for a top 10 finish this term, by new head coach Steve McClaren in the form of Netherlands midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum and Serbia striker Aleksandar Mitrovic, it remains the rearguard which is called into question by the Toon Army. Make sure you don’t miss a single major signing with Coral’s transfer live blog.
Newcastle’s recent pre-season friendly down at League One promotion favourites Sheffield United – a testimonial for Blades centre back stalwart and now coach Chris Morgan – highlighted how defending is still a problem.
Magpies club captain Fabricio Coloccini has not played a single minute of their preparation matches and, with the Premier League opening weekend fast approaching, it appears McClaren has no faith in the Argentine. Based on another dismal defensive performance at Bramall Lane against opposition two divisions below the travelling Toon, he can have little hope for Mike Williamson either.
St James’ Park academy graduates Steven Taylor and Paul Dummett do have futures on Tyneside where they both grew up, if McClaren’s record of sticking with local lads when in charge across at northeast rivals Middlesbrough is any indicator.
Taylor has a terrible injury record, but showed sublime positional sense to clear a goal-bound Blades shot from behind beaten goalie Tim Krul during the 2-2 draw in a rain-drenched Steel City.
Young Jamaal Lascelles saw himself signed up by Newcastle last summer, but loaned back to former club Nottingham Forest for the campaign and now steps up to Premier League level for the first time.
Mitrovic’s old Anderlecht teammate Chancel Mbemba, at just 20, is the man the Magpies have turned to in order to sort out their defensive disarray.
Marshalling a backline which does have some quality in the form of Wijnaldum’s Dutch international teammate Daryl Janmaat is no mean feat for one so young. Mbemba, like Lascelles, is making a significant step up, given the Belgian top-flight’s relative weakness to the Premier League.
At a shade under 6ft tall, Mbemba does not have the dominant and commanding physical presence of fellow 1994 born Kurt Zouma at Chelsea, nor the confidence in possession of another contemporary Everton’s John Stones.
Mbemba is intelligent, however, and a qualified electrician, so may give the Magpies defence the jolt into life it needs. Mothered by a professional basketball player, he is also athletic and had a taste of Champions League football during Anderlecht’s participation in the group stage of that elite European club competition.
Scouted by the jewel in Newcastle’s crown Graham Carr, who unearthed gems like Yohan Cabaye, Mathieu Debuchy, Janmaat and others, Mbemba needs an experienced head to operate alongside him. With Coloccini’s future in doubt, Taylor is the only alternative with over 200 Premier League and European outings for the club.
Should leg muscle and Achilles injury problems reoccur, and there is a resigned air of inevitability that they will to Taylor judging by his previous fitness record, then Mbemba will be thrust centre stage. Many Magpies and McClaren’s own ambitions, including 16/1 to win a trophy this term, may thus rest squarely on such young shoulders.