Newcastle centre back debate should be ended by clear evidence Jamaal Lascelles is key

Newcastle United's Spanish manager Rafael Benitez smiles during the English Premier League football match between Newcastle United and Bournemouth at St James' Park in Newcastle-upon-Tyne,...

Both of Newcastle's centre backs clearly perform better alongside Jamaal Lascelles, who is now key to the club's success.

Newcastle goalscorer Jamaal Lascelles celebrates on the final whistle during the Premier League match between Swansea City and Newcastle United at Liberty Stadium on September 10, 2017 in...

Jamaal Lascelles might be Newcastle United's captain - and a star performer so far this season - but his place in the side was in doubt at the start of the campaign.

Having missed part of pre-season through injury, Lascelles started the opening day clash with Tottenham Hotspur on the bench as Florian Lejeune lined up alongside Ciaran Clark.

The former Nottingham Forest man benefited from Lejeune's withdrawal in that game and did not lose his place again until his own injury blow against Bournemouth.

Jamaal Lascelles of Newcastle United celebrates with Joselu of Newcastle United after he scores his sides first goal during the Premier League match between Swansea City and Newcastle...

With Lascelles at the centre of defence - alongside either Lejeune or Clark - Newcastle looked solid at the bank.

There remained doubts over his long-term place right up until the moment he came out of the side, however, with many assuming Lejeune and Clark to be the club's best pairing.

But that has not proven to be the case, with Newcastle's form tailing off drastically since Lascelles' injury.

Newcastle defender Florian Lejeune in action during the Premier League match between Newcastle United and Tottenham Hotspur at St. James Park on August 13, 2017 in Newcastle upon Tyne,...

Lejeune and Clark have both looked suspect, too, and now Magpies fans are counting down the days for Lascelles' return.

The potential England prospect has developed into a fine defender, but few realised quite how crucial his leadership role was to the success of the team.

With every passing poor defensive performance, Lascelles becomes more crucial.

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