Is it time for the return of Matt Targett?

Dan Burn has had a successful season to date, but it has been a surprise to see him flourish in a left back role. Despite his leadership, it is only ever likely to be a short-term solution in the first team, as he isn’t a natural in the position. It is an area of the pitch that we need to upgrade in the summer.

In recent weeks, the lack of goals has been a huge issue for the team. Meanwhile, goals have started to go in at the other hand. Most worryingly, we look to be weak defensively when facing set pieces. There have been three goals scored against us in recent weeks from set piece situations. The most damaging came last weekend when Casemiro opened the scoring for Manchester United at Wembley.

One of Burn’s supposed strengths is his height and the benefits this brings when defending, both in open play and at set pieces. It is true that wingers don’t get anything out of him in open play, as he can be relied on to win aerial duels and regain possession. However, from set pieces, he isn’t providing the benefit that many believe he should be, especially in the opposition penalty area. His only goal for the Magpies came from open play. Last weekend, he smashed the bar with a header. It will be one that he will believe he should have scored.

During open play, Burn has improved over the course of the season, offering more support down the left flank as the matches go on. That said, he isn’t a natural full-back and there will always be a limit to the threat he can pose. As the goals have dried up, we have become predictable and teams can afford to double up on Allan Saint-Maximin, knowing that Burn won’t carry a big threat. He is often left unmarked in open play with opposition teams happy for the ball to go him.

Eddie Howe has always been keen to emphasise Burn’s importance on the pitch. He is seen as a leader and his roots as a Newcastle fan give him a unique motivation. There are clear benefits, but he shouldn’t be considered a nailed-on starter in the team, especially now Matt Targett has returned.

As is often the case, opinions of Targett have improved during his absence. A goal and an assist in a recent under-21 game have caused many to want him to be reinstated to the starting eleven. However, like Burn, Targett isn’t an attacking full-back and he has never been one in the Premier League. He has a good delivery from set pieces and is a more willing attacker than Burn, but he is far from the profile that Eddie Howe will want for the long term.

Targett has yet to register a goal or an assist in a Newcastle shirt. In fact, he has only contributed one goal and three assists since the beginning of the 2020/21 campaign. For those expecting him to add a new dimension to our game are perhaps overestimating the influence he will have. Last season, his crossing from open play was poor and teams were comfortable letting him have the ball in the attacking third. Burn is a converted centre-back, but Targett is still a defensive full-back.

It may be time to bring Burn out of the team to rest him, both physically and mentally. However, it is too much to expect Targett to come in and offer much more on the ball.

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