Jack Colback – The Man Who Makes Newcastle’s Midfield Tick

Jack Colback – The Man Who Makes Newcastle’s Midfield Tick
May 2, 2016

Newcastle

Jack Colback is underrated and unappreciated, by Newcastle United supporters and those of rival clubs alike. The work he does goes unnoticed at times, as he is not a player who will amaze you with the amount of goals he scores or the tricks he can do. He won’t bend in sublime free kicks like Andros Townsend, he won’t make long, powerful runs like Moussa Sissoko, and he most certainly won’t score four in a single game like Georginio Wijnaldum. A brief look at Colback’s stats this season will not impress you – 1 goal and 1 assist in 26 appearances. But his lone goal – at Anfield to complete Newcastle’s comeback from two goals down – could prove vital. To really see how important Colback is to this Newcastle side, you need to take a deeper look.

 

Not Afraid To Put A Foot In

One of Colback’s best attributes is his tackling. He will never shirk a challenge, and wins the majority of the 50-50’s he goes into. Colback has attempted an average of 3.9 tackles per game this season, winning 2.8 of them, per WhoScored. That’s roughly a 72% successful tackle rate, which is higher than that of Sergio Busquets (yes, the one who plays for the best team in the world), Eric Dier, Blaise Matuidi, Philipp Lahm, Luiz Gustavo, Nemanja Matic, Geoffrey Kondogbia, James McCarthy, and a whole 19% higher than that of Lee Cattermole’s, among others. Ngolo Kante, arguably the best defensive midfielder in the Premier League this season, only is better by a single percent. When Colback goes in, he goes in to win. His no-nonsense approach to winning the ball is also reflected in his yellow card accumulation. Colback has been given 11 yellow cards this campaign, the most in the Premier League. Remarkably, he hasn’t been sent off, and has only been once in his entire professional career (May 9th, 2010 for Sunderland in a 2-1 defeat to Wolves, and only 20 years of age at the time).

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Ball Retention

Colback is often accused by the Toon faithful of always passing sideways and backwards, similar to the criticism Michael Carrick receives from Manchester United supporters. They are right, a good percentage of Colback’s passes are not forward and aren’t advancing the Magpies up the pitch. This is not a bad thing, though. Shelvey, although a very gifted passer, attempts too many Hollywood balls when he can make the simpler – and far more effective – pass. Colback knows his personal limits and shortcomings as a player and allows others to do the playmaking. Last season, Colback had the 14th highest pass completion percentage out of all holding midfielders in the Premier League – 1st out of those that played for a side in the bottom half of the Premier League – at 87.5%, per WhoScored. It has dropped slightly this season, as he only has an 84.5% completion rate, but that is still nothing to be sniffed at. One reason for this is that he has been asked to serve as the playmaking midfielder – something he is not very good at – as he has played alongside Cheick Tiote or Vurnon Anita for the majority of the season.

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Team Player

One of the most overlooked attributes in football. Jack Colback is a team player. Players like Hatem Ben Arfa and Florian Thauvin have flopped on Tyneside – not because they didn’t have the talent – but because they did not want to put in the hard yards for the team. You can never accuse Colback, though, of failing to give his all. Last season, he covered an average of 11.658 km per game, good enough for 3rd in the entire Premier League. Colback has continued his tireless running this campaign having covered 71.8 km in the first six matches of the season, second only to James Milner at the time. His hardworking displays have not gone unnoticed. At least not by me.

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It was not long ago Colback was the star of the show for the Magpies. He even got into an England squad with Roy ‘Top Club Bias’ Hodgson in charge. It all went wrong for him once he was forced to be a playmaker this season, similar to Tiote once Cabaye left. Under Benitez, Colback is getting back to what he does best, doing the so-called ‘dirty work’. Rafa’s decision to play him alongside Tiote in the midfield has given the Magpies some much-needed steel and made the side much tougher to beat. Neither of them is being asked to play make. Their job is to simply win the ball and play it to one of the front four. It has brought out the best in both of them.

Colback, like any player, has his fair share of weaknesses – his tendency to give away silly free kicks in dangerous areas, for one, is extremely frustrating. He’s not the biggest or quickest of players either. His importance to this Newcastle side cannot be underestimated, though.

Follow me on Twitter:

@Kia_NUFC

 

  1. Madridista02 says:

    no player can make a midfield tick more than James Rodriguez

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