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Defending DeAndre

All football fans are fickle at times and can sometimes have selective memories, whether we like to admit it or not. And whilst many of us have got plenty of time on our hands, it got me thinking about players who we may have been overly critical of this season (so far), and one seemed to stick out to me, DeAndre Yedlin.

Yedlin, a £5 million signing from Tottenham Hotspur, joined Newcastle as part of Rafa Benitez rebuild project in the Championship in 2016, and has remained United's first choice right sided defender ever since. The competition Yedlin has faced in that position, obviously seems questionable, as he only battled the legless Jesus Gamez, and a makeshift Vurnon Anita in his early days on Tyneside. Yedlin was solid in the Championship, and gave us little cause for immediate concern, during the toon's first season back in the big time.

Under Steve Bruce, Yedlin has endured a stop-start time. Right wing-back was an area of the squad Bruce, and the recruitment team at St James Park felt they needed to strengthen, as they appeared unconvinced of the strength in Yedlin and Javi Manquillo. Swedish international Emil Krafth duly arrived on Tyneside for £5 million, (ironically the same fee paid for Yedlin himself), as it now seemed that DeAndre's place in the side was far from guaranteed.

After picking up a groin injury in preseason, Yedlin didn't make his first start of the season until October, which happened to be Newcastle's victory over Manchester United, where Matty Longstaff famously stole the headlines. That game was significant in more ways than one, as it followed a horror show at Leicester where Newcastle were thrashed 5-0. Yedlin was recalled to the side along with Ciaran Clark, who had since been in excellent form until coming off injured at Arsenal in February. New signing Emil Krafth looked like a rabbit in the headlights in the Premier League, and it's still difficult to find any positives from that particular transfer.

Yedlin's main attribute is plain to see; electrifying pace that can put the fear into any opposition wing-back. This came to prominence when the U.S.A International established himself back as first choice right wing-back throughout the autumn. His finest performance in the black and white this season has to be the home victory over Bournemouth. His pace was epitomised when the twenty six year old found the net for United's equaliser, throwing himself at a wayward Saint-Maximin shot to find the net. He also made a fantastic goal line clearance in what was a man of the match performance, during what was a prosperous time for Steve Bruce's side.

Subsequent hip and hand injuries in January, as well as a rise in form of Spaniard Javi Manquillo, Yedlin has once again had a frustrating time in and out of the side. In fact, a defensive injury crisis at the turn of the year saw midfielder Isaac Hayden take up the right wing-back role. Austrian winger Valentino Lazaro joined Newcastle on loan from Inter Milan in January, who would be seen to give proper competition for the right wing-back role, as well as much needed strength in depth going forward.

Yedlin was recalled to the starting eleven as Newcastle welcomed bottom of the league Norwich City to St James Park. We probably saw the best and worst of DeAndre Yedlin in his fifty four minutes on the pitch in this game. Overall this game was horrendous and Yedlin was key to this, as his repeated inability to put in a half decent cross blunted our already blunt attack much to the groans and jeers around a frustrated St James Park. But my argument is simple, when a struggling striker misses a couple of chances, what does his manager always say? Something along the lines of "Yes he's missed a few, but he was getting into the right positions and that was reassuring." You can almost hear Steve Bruce say that!

The same can be said for Yedlin in that game in particular, yes he was bad, I don't deny that whatsoever, but if Newcastle were going to score in the first half of that game, it would have gone through him. He continually found himself in great positions, and had the beating of Norwich City's left hand side on every occasion. Do not forget also, this was during the time we were all screaming for a change of formation.

Right back is obviously now a position of uncertainty for Newcastle. Javi Manquillo, who is turning his career around after almost becoming a bit of a joke, is out of contract at the end of the season, and our hierarchy is in no rush to be handing out an extension. Emil Krafth you could argue (desperately) needs time, but he doesn't look like the Premier League is for him at right-back. Unfortunately for the Swede, he is set to join the likes of Laurent Charvet and Jesus Gamez in the right-backs we'd rather forget category. Therefore, DeAndre Yedlin could once again be Newcastle's only right-back going into next season. With the American entering his prime years, him continuing to be first choice in his position does not make me overly uncomfortable in the grand scheme of things, especially considering our need to improve elsewhere.

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