Examining Newcastle’s potential defensive partnerships ahead of the new season

Words by Kevin Doocey on .

Fabricio Coloccini in action against Real Sociedad

Newcastle United finished off their pre-season campaign with a narrow 1-0 victory over Spanish side Real Sociedad at St. James’ Park courtesy of a goal from Moussa Sissoko two minutes from time. The game - streamed live by the visitors on their officials club website - fans who did not have the pleasure of attending the game in person, were able to watch Newcastle’s new signings in action on the hallowed turf of St. James’ as the Toon get ready to host Manchester City in a weeks time. Although the summer transfer window marked a successful recruitment drive from the club, many suggest that a new centre-back is needed to shore up a leaky back-line. Fabricio Coloccini, Mike Williamson, Steven Taylor, and Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa make up the four senior central defenders at the club, and truth be told - there is only one proven, quality first teamer among the aforementioned names. Add to that the fact that manager Alan Pardew tried his best of sell Mbiwa this window, only for a number of sides to cool their interest in recent weeks.

Newcastle United need a new CB, but they won’t sign one before the end of the window, unless some drastic changes between then. Somehow, QPR managed to complete the signing of Steven Caulker from Cardiff for a modest fee - a defender that would have been perfect for Newcastle, but of course the club will only buy after they’ve offloaded some of their own.

The potential partnerships for the tie against Manchester City:

  1. Fabricio Coloccini & Mike Williamson

  2. Fabricio Coloccini & Steven Taylor

  3. Fabricio Coloccini & Yanga Mapou-Mbiwa

  4. Mike Williamson & Yanga Mapou-Mbiwa

  5. Mike Williamson & Steven Taylor

  6. Steven Taylor & Yanga Mapou-Mbiwa

Best partnership?

There is not doubt in my mind that Fabricio Coloccini has to start the opening fixture. The Argentine is one of the first names on the teamsheet and he brings an incredible sense of composure to the club’s back four in times of need. The question is, who joins him?

I am a big fan of Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa and I believe he has the potential to be brilliant, however, he and Coloccini are a tad too familiar to complement each other. Mbiwa doesn’t have height nor an aerial threat, much like Coloccini - however Fabricio’s ability to the read the game so well often means any header he does go for, he usually wins it. (Keep an eye out for that).

Coloccini and Mbiwa are both a similar height at 6ft. Mike Williamson stands at 6ft 4inches and in theory, should dominate any aerial duels with the opposition. Unfortunately he is a little too unreliable in every aspect of his game.

Steven Taylor is just over 6ft in height, but before I even consider him in a partnership with Coloccini, Williamson or indeed Mbiwa - the man is not good enough to be at Newcastle United.


With everything taken into account - the best partnership we can put forward on Sunday is Fabricio Coloccini and Mike Williamson. Both complement each other’s style of play, and struck up a decent rapport at times last season.

Coloccini tends to organise his back four well, and that includes Williamson who happens to follow the 33 year-old’s orders on the park.

Next partnership after that would be Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa and Mike Williamson, but let’s be honest - Fabricio is the club’s main man when it comes to defending so there is no chance of Alan Pardew dropping him. He’s also an integral figure in the dressing-room, and club captain of course.

While a striker is on the wish list before the window closes, a defender is equally important, however, I’ll take either at this stage.

Comments welcome as always, and feel free to follow me on Twitter @KevinDoocey.

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John Graham: ⏱ 10/08/2014

Come on really ?? Colo has been poor of late I didn't. See today's game but the close of last season and in pre season he has been well below par... And as for you comment about MYM Is good at reading the game ... Really ? Everton last season he must have been reading the bill boards. Against Malaga he was terrible as well... Mike is the 1st name on the sheet !! The line up won't be too different to the line up today !! Tiote and De Jong will come back in if fit.... 4-5-1 or 4-4-1-1 ... Sissoko might end up more central if De Jong Is back Cabella will shift out wide Krul Janmaat ---- Williamson ---- colo----- haidaira Sissoko ------- tiote Gouffran Cabella De Jong Rivière

Passingfootball: ⏱ 10/08/2014

Mym should get as many chances as colo, whether its through cup games or during hectic schedule like 2 matches in a week , we should switch players and give each of them a chance. Mym can still improve and adapt. It took colo 2 years to play good in the premiere at his preferred role, for me mym can too and is still young with bags of potential can pass, not afraid to hold on to the ball and is composed just like the captain. With confidence i believe he'll be even better than colo. Come on pardew give the lad a chance.

Sean Lynch: ⏱ 10/08/2014

I keep reading people's comments on various forums, about how good they believe MYM is, almost to the point of suggesting he's fantastic. Personally, I can't for the life of me understand just where these people are coming from, are they watching a different game, or are they basing their opinions of what he did back in France? So far, in this country, MYM has been poor, his reading of the game, touch, effectiveness, lack of heading ability, speed of thought and the time he takes to decide what to do, just simply aren't up to the required standard or a Premier league centre-back. If his speed of thought, distribution and decision making were better Willo would be our best defender. However those points are what separates Premiership from Championship level defenders and I'm afraid Mike for all his skills and performances is a Championship level player, who's playing above his level. Taylor is a defender who showed great talent and ability up until he was about 22, even spotlighted as a future England captain. However a series of injuries and loss of form have seen his progress halt and then regress to a certain extent. He has too many shortcomings to go into detail about and his lack of decisiveness and constant negative play add to his weaknesses. Colo had been the only quality centre-back we possessed, but the failed transfer to his home club of San Lorenzo and the fallout which followed left him looking like a player who wanted away. Sadly that is still how he appears, regardless of what the rhetoric is with regards to his intentions. From Christmas last season, along with the majority of the team, Colo was diabolical, the commanding talisman at the back, our leader and captain was less than a shadow of his former self. The season before last he was equally poor, yet he's still trusted with the captaincy. It was obvious to everyone who watched us last season after the departure of Cabaye, that we needed replacements desperately. But of the positions and in order of necessity, it was strikers THEN centre-backs, followed by replacements for those who were sold/loans ended and finally midfield. If we don't get a centre-back signed, and in all honesty it currently doesn't look as if we're even looking, either Curtis Good needs to break into the first team within the first couple of months. Or come Christmas we're going to find ourselves too far behind the top 4 to even have remote hope of catching them.

Fman: ⏱ 10/08/2014

I hated watching that game against everton. I remember in the half time commentary the guys were talking and trying to blame Collo. Then Neville showed the replay and you could just see Mbiwa, standing there, staring like a goof. Pardew also recognized the issue and swapped Williamson at half time and we didn't concede again. It was a brilliant substitution. I read another article on here about Cabella not being a perfect replacement for Cabaye. Everyone seems to forget that in Cabayes first few games, he didn't come across as amazing either. He had to adapt first and then became himself.

Doocey: ⏱ 11/08/2014

Thanks for your comment. Not sure you read the article correctly though, I don't believe I said MYM is good at reading the game? Regardless, I do think he has the potential to be an excellent defender - hence why Mike Ashley was persuaded to part with the guts of £7m for him, big money in 2012! He needs time to adjust to the division, and will only get that with playing time, much like Coloccini on his arrival. Agree with you about Sissoko though, I'd love to see him in a more central position, box to box, as is his natural game. That looks a tad unlikely though considering our competition for the central mid places, and the lack of it on our right hand side.

Doocey: ⏱ 11/08/2014

Mbiwa had a bad start, no doubt, but a few bad games doesn't take away from his undoubted potential. Thus guy captained Montpellier to the league title months previous to arriving on Tyneside, which says something about his qualities regardless of the competition in Ligue 1. About Cabella, he'll need time to adjust as well, as you rightly mention. I remember Cabaye's opener against Arsenal at St. James' - he looked like a player that was very much still getting to grips with the pace and physicality of the division. Signs from Cabella early-on look encouraging though, and despite comparisons to Yohan — Siem de Jong is his more natural replacement. Cabella gives us an outlet on the wing, and that's where I expect him to play. De Jong could be the star man for us much like Cabaye and naming his as vice-captain already puts down quite a marker for the Dutchman I think. Thanks for reading, and indeed commenting.

John Graham: ⏱ 13/08/2014

You said colo and MYM are very similar in the same breath hail colo's ability to read the game and when goes for a header he usually wins due to this !

John Graham: ⏱ 13/08/2014

I agree that Willo isn't a world beater but on current form he is our best option which is sad to say let's be honest !! Colo has been poor , MYM has never gotten started and saylor is a shadow of the the up and comer who took the prem by storm