Fabian Schar reveals his view on Joelinton and Newcastle United's goalscoring problems
“Maybe we need him,” said Fabian Schar, smiling.
Stood behind Schar was long-retired Alan Shearer, Newcastle United’s all-time leading goalscorer.
One thing the club now needs is goals. Steve Bruce’s side has failed to score in its last three league games, and Joelinton – the club’s £40million club-record signing – has scored one top-flight goal so far this season. Tellingly, no team has scored fewer goals than United this season.
Schar was collecting the North East Football Writers’ Association’s player of the year award for 2019 at Ramside Hall, Durham.
The defender was pleased with the recognition – Shearer is a previous winner of the prestigious trophy – but frustrated at back-to-back defeats to Crystal Palace and Arsenal which have seen the mood among fans on Tyneside darken.
Those results have left the club 14th in the league ahead of Saturday’s home game against Burnley, and fans are concerned that the club is slowly being dragged into a relegation battle, having seemingly been in a comfortable mid-table position late last year.
Schar is also concerned at the team’s dip in form.
“The last two games, we cannot be happy with our performances,” said Schar. “At Palace, the chance was there to do something, but we didn't create too much. We have to talk about this, and see what we can do better.
“We now have important games ahead of us in the next two weeks. We can get our points, do hard work and get results.
“We all know we have to do better. We have to improve, and we cannot continue like we did the last two games.
“We have just now one week for an important home game against Burnley. We’ll train hard to prepare ourselves. I think we have quality. We’re a great team. We just have to go back to our basics, do what we’re good at, and be positive for the next games.”
Joelinton’s performances have come under close scrutiny this season. However, Schar – who has scored two goals himself from defence – believes that the club’s problems in front of goal can’t be solely pinned on the strikers.
“It’s hard,” said the Switzerland international. “People are blaming our strikers, but they forget the work they do for our team to defend.
“They’re hard-working players doing a lot of difficult stuff, and you can’t forget that. The whole team has to create more, and get more chances, then they’ll score. It’s not just strikers, it’s the whole team who need to be better.”
Schar returned to the starting XI against Palace after head coach Bruce lost Ciaran Clark to an ankle injury.
The 28-year-old, signed from Deportivo La Coruna in the summer of 2018, has had a stop-start season. Schar – who came closest to scoring at Selhurst Park – hopes to stay fit and help the team at both ends of the pitch between now and the end of the campaign.
“It’s not been too easy,” said Schar. “I’ve had a couple of injuries this season, so it’s not been so easy, and I have had to wait to come back for the team. I've trained for two or three weeks. Now I’m ready, and I help the team the way I can.”
Schar was a big help to the team, then managed by Rafa Benitez, last season. The ball-playing centre-half impressed at both ends of the pitch after winning a place in the team.
“The first two to three months were not easy for myself, but I knew what was waiting for me,” said Schar, who scored a stunning goal in Newcastle’s 2-0 win over Burnley at St James’s Park last season.
“Rafa told me to be patient. When I got my chance I took it. I was full of confidence, and it was a joy to play for Newcastle and the fans in St James's Park. I had some great games. Second part of the season was incredible.
“There were highlights like that (goal against Burnley). It was unexpected for myself. I try to do what I can, play football, show my strength for the team. Most of the time it has gone well.
“It’s a big honour to win this award, especially as a defender. I had a great first year. I’m thankful to play for Newcastle and with my team-mates.”
United finished last season strongly, and the challenge for Bruce – who pledged to “try something different” after the Palace defeat – is to find the right balance between defence and attack, something Benitez was adept at doing during his time at the club.
Asked what changes need to be made, Schar said: “It’s difficult to say exactly what it needs. It’s just four or five games where we can get something, and our expectation of ourselves is to win. If we play to our strengths, I’m confident we will get points and finish strongly.”
Newcastle’s strength in recent years has been their defensive resilience.
“We’re not like Manchester City with 70-80% possession,” said Schar. “We know this. We know our strengths. We’re well-organised, because we have 11 players defending our ball. Then we have to get our chances.
“We know we can improve. Especially things with the ball, creating more chances, and to score more goals.”
Meanwhile, United midfielder Sean Longstaff won the young player of the year award.