According to a report this morning from Simon Johnson of the Evening Standard, Chelsea are monitoring Newcastle Captain and centre back, Jamaal Lascelles, as we look to strengthen our defence.
The report mentions that Chelsea have been long term admirers of the English (and homegrown!) defender — born in Derby, despite the French-sounding last name — and could make a move for him in the summer. According to the report, Chelsea want to increase the number of homegrown players in the squad (duh!) as well as continue the trend of buying players in their early-to-mid 20s, which would be useful considering that David Luiz and Gary Cahill are both on the wrong side of 30. Lascelles at 24 fits this bill perfectly.
Lascelles, who arrived at Newcastle from Nottingham for around £4 million, has been a first-choice centre back for the last couple years and is a favourite of manager Rafael Benitez.
When Lascelles first arrived, he was loaned back to Nottingham for the 2014-15 season, as part of the deal. In 2015-16, Lascelles wasn’t an immediate starter until injuries to Chancel Mbemba and Fabricio Coloccini in February, 2016 forced Benitez to give him a chance and Lascelles grabbed the opportunity with both hands and made that starting position his own but couldn’t prevent the club from getting relegated to the Championship.
In August 2016, after being impressed by Lascelles’ leadership and willingness to speak up in the dressing room, especially his criticism of senior players after the defeat to Southampton, Benitez made Lascelles the club captain. In return, Lascelles repaid Benitez’s faith by captaining the club back to Premier League. Another testament to his determination would be his willingness to play through pain in the last 4 months of their 2016-17 campaign, despite requiring a double hernia operation.
His importance to the Magpies this season has continued and can be shown with the help of the following statistic:
Games with Lascelles: Played 21 Won 7 Drawn 6; conceded 19 (average 0.9 per game)
Games without Lascelles: Played 6 Won 0 Drawn 1; Conceded 17 (average 2.8 per game)
Opta stat: Jamaal Lascelles is a beast in the air, winning a whopping 76.4% headers. #NUFC— Newcastle Fans TV (@NewcastleFansTV) May 20, 2016
On the surface, this seems like a decent move as we’d essentially be replacing Cahill(turning 33 this year) with a young, solid, homegrown defender who has his best years ahead of him and has shown leadership qualities.
However, Newcastle aren’t encouraging any bids for the player and hold the cards in this negotiation as Lascelles signed a contract extension last October which runs till 2022-23 season. Also, Benitez thinks of the English defender as an integral part of his plans and wouldn’t allow the club to sell Lascelles under normal circumstances. The defender himself seems to be a great fan of Benitez as well.
Yet, Chelsea still seem to believe that we can pry him away from the Magpies. This belief stems in part from the uncertainty surrounding the future of Benitez as well as the club’s ownership, plus the fact that Lascelles apparently makes less than half than the club’s highest paid player, Jonjo Shelvey at £80k/week, does.
For now, all we can do is wait and watch the situation unfold. Chelsea, who could easily triple Lascelles’ take-home pay, of course aren’t alone in this potential pursuit, with Liverpool, Arsenal, and Everton also mentioned in connection with Lascelles recently.