It may only be pre-season, but noises coming from certain quarters on Tyneside suggest all is not well when it comes to Newcastle United’s defence.
On Tuesday, it was captain Fabricio Coloccini who came in for some uncharacteristic criticism after a lack-lustre display against Huddersfield Town.
While last weekend, the slurs were reserved for centre-back Steven Taylor, who was singled out by some fans following the 3-1 loss to Spanish side Malaga.
The introduction of Mike Williamson seemed to add stability to the Magpies’ back four during the Schalke 04 Cup—much like it did last season when the 30-year-old was drafted in following a calamitous first-half against Everton.
But the frailties that plagued the Toon during the previous campaign have set the club and its followers on edge, and big questions remain about their solidity at the back.
During a disastrous run last term that started with derby defeat to Sunderland in February and ended with a 3-0 reverse at Arsenal, Alan Pardew’s men shipped 29 goals in just 13 Premier League fixtures.
And such porous tendencies left a mark on the club’s loyal followers, who have seen nine new faces arrive at St. James’s Park this summer, but just one central defender.
The player in question is highly promising Jamaal Lascelles, but the 20-year-old will not even figure for United during 2014-15 after being loaned back to Nottingham Forest.
Aside from Coloccini, Taylor and Frenchman Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa—who has spent much of pre-season covering at right-back—Newcastle have the option of dipping into a pool of untried talent at under-21 level.
The likes of Remie Streete and Lubo Satka have gotten minutes under their belts this summer, but neither has yet broken his way into Pardew’s first-team plans.
If the Magpies begin to leak goals once more when the action gets underway, the former Charlton Athletic manager will be left with little option but to shake things up.
Tellingly, the No. 5 shirt remains vacant in Pardew’s squad ahead of the new season, and the 53-year-old may well be tempted to try and fill it before this month’s transfer deadline.