Classy Schar Warranting Spurs and Arsenal Interest
March 11, 2019
There was a moment midway through the first half of Newcastle’s 2-0 loss at West Ham that summed up the calmness of Fabian Schar. When under pressure and facing his own goal, rather than thump the ball into the stands to sacrifice possession, the Swiss defender instead navigated his way out of danger with incredible ease.
The defeat came days after a routine 2-0 home win over Burnley, in which Schar bagged a goal of the season contender. Unsurprisingly, his long-range strike landed the February goal of the month gong.
“I don’t score too many goals and this is probably my best,” the award-winning centre-back said of his thundering effort.
Having initially struggled to force his way into Rafa Benitez’s first team plans upon his arrival – it wasn’t until the 1-0 win over Watford in November that the 27-year-old made his second league appearance of the campaign – Schar is all but undroppable in this present Newcastle setup. The Magpies have now won three of their last four league outings to move six points clear of the drop zone and crucial in the turnaround in form has been Benitez’s decision to make the defender a regular starter in this side.
Indeed, as per WhoScored.com, eight of the nine Premier League wins Newcastle have accumulated this season have come in games that Schar has started, which is a fine return considering the 3-2 win over Everton on Saturday marked just his 16th league start of the campaign. The other game they did win was the aforementioned 1-0 win over Watford, a victory Schar was brought on at half time in.
With each passing week, Schar is proving himself to be one of the bargain buys of the season. Snapped up for just £3m from Spanish outfit Deportivo, the Switzerland international continues to shine and is now a mainstay in this Newcastle XI. With Benitez’s team aiming to end the campaign strongly having previously hit rock bottom last year, it’s Schar’s rise to star player that has proven hugely important.
There have been other factors too in Newcastle’s surge away from danger, but it is difficult to overlook Schar’s influence in the defence given the number of goals conceded per game drops from 1.5 to 1.06 when he does start. Sean Longstaff and Isaac Hayden’s unlikely blossoming partnership, one that was cruelly cut short in the 2-0 defeat at West Ham due to the former’s season-ending knee injury, has been key, yet Schar’s experience in Benitez’s preferred five-man defence has benefitted the team immensely.
He ranks top for interceptions (2.6), third for tackles (2.4) and clearances per game (5.9), as per WhoScored.com, to reinforce a proactive style to defending that highlights both his fine reading of the game and willingness to get stuck in to alleviate pressure on the Newcastle goal and the team are all the better for it. His understanding with captain Jamaal Lascelles and Florian Lejeune at the heart of the Newcastle backline has played a significant role in Newcastle conceding just 38 league goals this season, that in turn the sixth best defensive record in England’s top tier this term and fewer than top-four hopefuls Arsenal (39) and Manchester United (40).
However, for all of his impressive performances for Newcastle to date, Schar’s ill-discipline could come back to haunt the Magpies before and after the international. A booking on Saturday means no Premier League player has earned more yellow cards than Schar (10) this season, with that triggering an automatic two-match ban, which will see him miss meetings with Bournemouth and Arsenal.
Yet the pros very much outweigh the cons. Schar’s exceptional performances in the Newcastle defence saw him linked with moves to Arsenal and Tottenham this weekend and you can be sure the club stands to make a hefty profit on the defender should they elect to sell, particularly after paying just £3m to secure his services in the first place, a paltry fee in today’s inflated transfer market, and further proof that a quality bargain buy is out there, teams just have to find it.
For Newcastle, though, the hope is that Schar’s absence isn’t too keenly felt as they strive to consolidate a top-flight spot. After sinking to the foot of the table in October, the Magpies are finally starting to take flight with Schar the foundation with which they can soar. Long may it continue, as far as Newcastle are concerned.