An Inside Look at Chancel Mbemba and CBs NUFC Should Target

Words by Aziz Khalil – follow him on Twitter @azizk47

Written for NUFC360 - a new brand aiming to bring you all things Newcastle United. Be sure to follow for updates. Follow them @NUFC360

Newcastle United sealed their 3rd signing of the summer and finally addressed a position that was in dire need. As I have explained before, new defenders will be key to changing NUFC and will dictate the overall improvement as a team, on and off the field. Centerback Chancel Mbemba was officially signed July 30th, 2015 but an agreement was in place for quite some time now. The official deal was delayed due to visa issues and the FA needed to permit him to join Newcastle United. The 20 year-old Congolese international was signed on a 5 year, £8million transfer fee from Anderlecht, joining his teammate Aleksandar Mitrovic (read about Mitrovic here). Hopefully this is the beginning of revamping a defensive back four that was ranked 2nd worst in the PL last season in goals against (63), only QPR (73) conceded more. Tim Krul had one of his worst seasons as a professional, due in large part to the constant change of players and shortage of talent in front of him. Mbemba is a good start to altering the defensive identity. Chancel Mbemba underwent a bone scan to determine his proper age. Officially born August 8th, 1994 but there were various doubts about his real age. The player’s registration form while he was playing in Congo showed that he was born August 8th, 1988 and he was also registered as a 30th of November, 1991 birthday in the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations qualifications campaign. The bone scan eventually concluded that Mbemba was indeed born August 8th, 1994, which confirmed the original report. The questions surrounding his age did somewhat slow down Mbemba’s progress with the Anderlecht team and he did seem quite distracted, according to a few Anderlecht supporters. However, now they speak nothing but good things about him and his potential. Standing at 6’0ft, 80 kg (175 lbs), Mbemba is an aggressive CB with remarkable speed that closes down gaps and has the pace to keep up with PL strikers. This is refreshing for NUFC fans after watching Steven Taylor and Mike Williamson for 5+ years, the two most stagnant and immobile CBs in England. The necessity of having a sturdy and robust defensive back four will be imperative to devising a successful season. I’ve recently made the case that Newcastle needed to focus on improving their CB position before anywhere else, and still stand by that. The CB position is one of the most on the pitch;

you cannot win without a strong defensive core. Despite the Charlie Austin links, the board needs to spend the money on someone to play alongside Mbemba because the end of the Williamson-Taylor-Coloccini experience has been long overdue. With that said, here are a few players Newcastle should target at the CB position (Ranked them from unrealistic to realistic): 8) Benedikt Höwedes (Schalke 04): 6’1, 176 lbs, 27 years old. German international, value at approximately £20 million. This isn’t happening, he rejected AC Milan and Arsenal to stay in Germany but would be the absolute perfect fit. I won’t go into too many details, because it’s not happening but when The Chronicle’s Mark Douglas mentioned that Newcastle had interest in a mystery Bundesliga CB that no one mentioned, and that it would excite fans, this is the first name that came to mind. A superstar, world-class player who started next to Hummels for the World Cup winning German side. 7) Nicolas Otamendi (Valencia): 6’0, 180 lbs, 28 years old. Argentinian international, valued at approximately £30-35 million. Also improbable but there were reports this past week that Newcastle had legitimate interest in him. Steve McClaren had also mentioned that there were some names out there that NUFC were working on and that reporters were not aware of it yet. Otamendi fits that description, great talent and plays a world-class game. Also, don’t forget Ian Cathro has Valencia ties, could play a factor here. Still unrealistic due to his pricetag and interest from much bigger clubs (Manchester United and Manchester City) 6) Aymen Abdennour (Monaco): 6’1, 185 lbs, 25 years old. Tunisian international, valued at approximately £16 million. Has been linked to clubs like Barcelona, AC Milan and Atletico Madrid. This is a long shot but would be a dreamlike pairing next to Mbemba, he truly is a class player. Abdennour was limited to 18 matches last season due to a hamstring injury that kept him out for approximately 2 months. Strong in the air, he has solid pace and always looking to push the ball. Great instincts and anticipates the ball extremely well. 5) Joel Veltman (Ajax): 5’10, 160 lbs, 23 years old. Dutch international, valued at approximately £10 million. A little less realistic, spoke to some PSV watchers and sources told me that Veltman isn’t going anywhere. Signed a new contract last year that runs until 2018. Would be a surprise to see him leave Ajax but he is a great, young talent. 4) Nicolas N’Koulou (Marseille): 5’9, 170 lbs, 25 years old. Cameroon international, valued at approximately £15 million. N’Koulou has been linked with Newcastle all summer but the French side have been reluctant to let him go. Last season he had 24 appearances and scored twice and could fill in at LB, which would kill two birds with one stone. We will see if anything develops, his frame is not ideal and would give NUFC some aerial issues in the back but his pace and awareness would be an upgrade over Steven Taylor and Mike Williamson. 3) Ryan Shawcross (Stoke City): 6’3, 168 lbs, 27 years old. English international, valued at approximately £10-12 million. Prototypical English defender, with tons of PL experience and that is definitely something that NUFC is lacking in their summer transfer signings. His height is also idyllic to slot next to a 6’0 Mbemba but having an English presence in the back 4 (with talent, unlike Williamson and Taylor) would be a great step in the change of identity on defense for NUFC. 2) Joel Matip (Schalke 04): 6’3, 196 lbs, 25 years old. Cameroon international, valued at approximately £10 million. Matip would be the perfect fit, at his height and length, next to a 6’0 Mbemba. He has been linked to Newcastle all summer long and the rumours won’t go away, despite him committing to Schalke for at least another year. This link is a lot more realistic than Otamendi and Abdennour, and his price tag is a lot more reasonable. 1) Antonio Rudiger (Stuttgart): 6’2, 187 lbs, 22 years old. German international, valued at approximately £10-15 million. Also a great frame and size, would fit next to Mbemba nicely. As previously mentioned, Mark Douglas said that Newcastle had an interest in a Bundesliga CB that would excite fans. Well, this also fits that profile perfectly. NUFC had interest in him back in 2014 and those reports have resurfaced. Would be an incredible coup, Rudiger would have an immediate impact and would fit the NUFC board policy of buying players young, building up their reputation and selling at a healthier profit. Newcastle United have begun a complete overhaul of their club, top to bottom. From announcing the resignation of Mike Ashley from the director’s board, to cleaning out the entire Alan Pardew backroom staff and now adding pieces on the field. Hopefully that means we’ll see the last of Mike Williamson and Steven Taylor, too. It all depends on Coloccini’s health and services; will he leave before the window closes? If not, I don’t think another CB is a pressing need, Mbemba with Coloccini is fine, and Taylor, Lascelles and Williamson on the bench, it’ll do. However, at 33 years old, Colo is no longer a spring chicken, NUFC need to start looking elsewhere at some point. The market isn’t the greatest for CBs but the board will have to eventually spend to replace Fabricio Coloccini.

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