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Aug 15, 2008

Magpies still need to focus on defence

For a team that had one of the worst defensive records in the Premier League last season, it seems odd that the focus on new signings at Newcastle United is always on attack.

It may say something about the nature of the club, especially with Kevin '4-3-3' Keegan now at the helm, but they have been crying out for some defenders for some time and have, instead, brought in the likes of Obafemi Martins, Michael Owen and Alan Smith.

Now new arrival Fabricio Coloccini has been signed to bolster the Magpies' porous defence and arrives with a decent pedigree. He attracted the attention of some of Europe's top clubs with some solid performances for Deportivo de La Coruña and won an Olympic Gold medal with Argentina in 2004.

The talented Argentine may boast the kind of hair that Keegan himself would have been proud of in the 70s, but the worry is that he will end up going down the same road as some of the other defenders to have fallen foul of a switch to St James' Park.

Jean-Alain Boumsong was bought for a fee of around £8million in 2005 and was hailed as one of the best young defenders in the world after forming an impressive partnership with Philippe Mexes at Auxerre. However, after doing well in Scotland with Rangers, Boumsong became the latest in a long line of defensive failures at Newcastle, making a number of high-profile errors and is now attempting to resurrect his career back in France with Lyon.

Jonathan Woodgate's year at the club was blighted by injury and some have pointed to the training pitch at Little Benton as the reason for his failure to stay fit. Woodgate is now showing the kind of form that will see him establish himself as an England international in the future and that must be a bitter pill to swallow for Toon fans.

Others of note include the calamitous Titus Bramble, whose lack of concentration made him a laughing stock in the Premier League and Caçapa, who was hauled off after only 18 minutes against Portsmouth in November after a display best descibed as 'diabolical'.

David Rozehnal has been the worst of the recent batch, lasting only a few months at the club before being shipped off to Lazio and, in truth, young Steven Taylor is the only central defender who has shown enough potential to suggest that he can hold down a regular place in the side.

With a patently obvious need to strengthen his defence this summer, Keegan has, instead, gone for winger Jonás Gutiérrez and midfielder Danny Guthrie. Hardly the 'world-class' players that the manager promised at the end of last season.

With the arrival of another vastly overpriced centre-half, Newcastle are at least focusing on the right end of the pitch. At least three more acquisitions are needed, beginning with two more full-backs so the talented Charles N'Zogbia is not forced to fill in at left-back again.

But if Coloccini fails to shine like so many of his predessors, Keegan may have trouble persuading any other defenders to join his Newcastle revolution.

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