Newcastle must sign a ball-playing centre-back this summer to succeed under Steve McClaren

Steve McClaren

Newcastle need to ensure they are signing players who can fit into Steve McClaren’s system.

McClaren has not taken long before establishing his new-look system at St James’ Park, incorporating a ball-playing style from the first minute of the Magpies' first friendly.

He showed with Derby County that he would be looking for a technical system, with all players involved able to play the ball around the park, whether under pressure or not, without resulting to long balls - except when they present an opportunity.

This is the common style of play utilised at all top clubs nowadays, but Newcastle have been behind the curve in recent years, with Alan Pardew and John Carver preferring a more classic, direct style - to varying success.

As Pardew played this system, he strengthened his team using his style as the blueprint as to which players he should sign.

Due to this, the Magpies have a selection of defenders in their team, who, whilst strong at their own game, are poor when it comes to playing the ball out of defence.

This needs to be dealt with before the start of the season, as the pre-season friendlies have shown McClaren urging centre-backs to push forward into the midfield zones when they have the ball.

Against the lower calibre of opposition in pre-season, this is acceptable, but the Newcastle defenders showed last term that they cannot deal with the kind of play where they have to move with the ball.

Steven Taylor completed the most dribbles per game of all Newcastle centre-backs last term - with a measly tally of 0.3.

This is hardly the kind of possession ability that McClaren will want from his defenders, as they will bring trouble on themselves by running out of defence, and signing a ball-playing centre-back will be vital this summer.

Chancel Mbemba looks to be arriving at the club, from Anderlecht - as per the Guardian - and he represents an improvement on the current options. Last term he completed 1.3 dribbles per game from the centre-back positions, and that is the kind of total that shows he can handle himself with the ball at his feet.

His pass accuracy of 77% was lower than the Newcastle centre-back’s - Fabricio Coloccini registered 85% and Taylor was 87.9% - but the 20-year-old was more likely to attempt attacking passes than his soon-to-be teammates.

Mbemba looks to be a step in the right direct for McClaren in the transfer window, and if the new coach intends to be a success this season, he should be making more signings like the Congolese centre-back.

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