Say Yes To Younes!
John O’Shea has an excellent record against Newcastle, but records like his are great until they end. Kaboul did a great job in O’Shea’s absence at Southampton and his pace and power, particularly alongside the powerful but most importantly composed Lamine Koné, is something that we have been lacking in defence for a long time. With these two we have a physically imposing and quick centre back pairing, likely helped by their French connection also.
People may think that without O’Shea, there are not enough leaders in the team. I disagree. Koné is clearly an inspiring and infectious personality, who gives great confidence to those in front of him. Kaboul is no stranger to high pressure and intense games and has a great wealth of experience. Kirchhoff has played Champions League football and is a cool head under pressure, while M’Vila is another who is not fazed by big occasions. Defoe and Borini have both played in big derbies and intense environments, but have also thrived in this fixture before. Even without O’Shea there are plenty of leaders in our team.
O’Shea came on against Southampton and within a few minutes, we conceded. O’Shea failed to get tight to Pelle and Van Dijk in the build up to the goal and if anyone was to blame for the equaliser, it was him. O’Shea, while one of the most reliable defenders for us in recent seasons, has played the majority of the games where we have failed to keep clean sheets, a run stretching back months. Up against the power of Mitrovic and the pace and trickery of Perez and Wijnaldum, I would rather have a player like Kaboul who can match most players for pace, while also being stronger in the air than O’Shea. There is no room for sentimentality in football and picking O’Shea would surely be based on sentimentality and superstition, rather than rationality.
The main reason we have persisted with O’Shea for years, is because our defence has always looked lost without him organising it. However, I now feel confident that we do not sacrifice composure and organisation when O’Shea is removed from the team. Koné is clearly an organising and disciplined defender and is far more than just an imposing and quick centre back. Given Koné’s ability to organise the defence, we must ask ourselves whether O’Shea’s ever diminishing pace and strength should be preferred to Kaboul’s superior attributes. Additionally, we have the calmness and quality in front of the back four in Kirchhoff and M’Vila, meaning that O’Shea is no longer so vital to our defensive solidity.
This is no longer the defence that, without O’Shea to call upon, fielded Brown, Coates and Jones in a back three against Lukaku. Though the memory of that defensive collaboration from hell will probably never leave me, we must overcome the fear of inevitable organisational collapse without O’Shea and be bold enough to pick the two centre backs who played so well against Southampton. Of course O’Shea would not disgrace himself in this game, but with Mitrovic’s physicality and Wijnaldum and Perez running at the back four and making runs in behind, I’d feel more secure with Kaboul partnering Koné.
No Way, It's O'Shea!
Callum might not think that John O'Shea's derby record counts for much, but I do.
We've got a player in John O'Shea who has a wealth of experience, particularly in games against Newcastle, and we'd be stupid if we neglected it. John is our captain, afterall, and our leader. His superior mental toughness and calmness in pressure situations has been proven on many occasions.
Will so much riding on this game, you need to fill your team with dependable players. I think John has to come back into the side for the same reasons that Lee Cattermole does - players with the characteristics that they share are what separates us from the likes of Newcastle, who have such a lack of soul that when the chips are down they don't look capable of grinding in and working hard for one another.
Our whole defence benefits greatly from his presence. On numerous occasions this season we've seen Younes Kaboul play and all of a sudden our organisation becomes non-existent. With John O'Shea, our often brainless full backs seem to stick to their jobs. Lamine Kone looks a far better player with O'Shea next to him.
The other issue I have with Younes Kaboul is that you never know if he's going to make it through a full ninety minutes. At least with O'Shea you know he's reliable in that sense. If Alexander Mitrovic starts for Newcastle, I feel as though O'Shea is better equipped of the two defenders to deal with him.
You have to stick with what you know. Sam will be fully aware of O'Shea's record in this particular fixture and, although I'm not superstitious, it cannot be ignored.
All things considered, the safest and perhaps most intelligent option to take tomorrow is to go with John O'Shea.
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