Fabricio Coloccini is out of form. Or rather, he’s in the same form that he’s showed over the last couple of seasons.
Inconsistent. Lacking leadership. Off the pace.
There have, predictably and understandably, been calls for the Argentine to be dropped by Steve McClaren, starting with tonight’s Capital One Cup clash with Sheffield Wednesday.
But if McClaren is considering giving his skipper a breather tomorrow, ahead of the tough Premier League clash against Chelsea at the weekend, he should reconsider.
Newcastle’s captain has to play for three reasons.
1. Coloccini needs to find form. That won’t happen sat on the bench
Coloccini remains a key performer for the Magpies, which might sound strange coming from someone who wrote a few weeks ago that keeping him at the club could turn out to be Newcastle’s worst piece of summer business.
But the sad fact is that while he’s out of form, Coloccini still remains a better bet than the alternatives.
With Steven Taylor and Paul Dummett injured, McClaren’s other central defensive options are Mike Williamson and Jamaal Lascelles.
Williamson – honest as the day is long, regardless of what John Carver says – isn’t the solution. His time as a first team player at the club should be over.
Lascelles has potential but is still raw and untested. McClaren will be tempted to play him tonight against one of the Championship sides Lascelles faced regularly last season while at Nottingham Forest, and it would be a good game for the 21-year-old to play in.
But that should be alongside Coloccini, not instead of him.
2. Show us you’re serious about winning trophies
Newcastle have stated that one of their aims this season is to win silverware, and the Capital One Cup represents arguably their best chance.
Fans remain sceptical given recent club messages that they viewed cups as a distraction and deep runs in the competition could affect their Premier League status.
Now, with Newcastle second bottom, McClaren could be tempted to rest several of his big-name players and ensure they’re fit for Saturday’s visit of Chelsea, with the Magpies still looking for their first league win of the season.
But that would send the message out that they again don’t view the cups as important.
Coloccini sat out the previous round’s win over Northampton, and his FA Cup appearance record in recent seasons is appalling. Now he must show leadership, demand he’s in the starting XI and prove that the game matters to him – and the club.
3. Injuries are starting to bite already
Newcastle aren’t exactly blessed with defensive options.
Taylor and Dummett’s injuries have been added to by the news that Massadio Haidara is also a doubt.
If the Frenchman fails a fitness test, Newcastle are short at left-back. Dummett would have been the natural replacement, while another, Jack Colback, is also an injury concern.
If both Haidara and Colback miss out, Vurnon Anita could be pressed into full-back duty, not an ideal situation at all. To disrupt the rest of the defence would be a risk and playing Coloccini as the left-sided centre-half would at least retain some continuity and solidity.
His critics will point out that Coloccini is one of Newcastle’s weak links at the moment, and it would be difficult to argue against that.
Three days after my column questioning whether he should be dropped, Coloccini produced a towering man of the match performance at Old Trafford.
The 33-year-old is still capable of outstanding games. It’s now time for him to deliver again – starting against Wednesday.