Fabian Schar’s maiden Premier League foray has been utterly blissful. Despite joining Newcastle United without any fanfare from Deportivo La Coruna on a three-year deal for a meager £3m, Schar was a strong contender for bargain of the season. To add to his Magpies Player of the Season award. He should be proud.
A cloud of uncertainty hovered over Newcastle last summer. Ex-manager Rafael Benitez and Mike Ashley were at loggerheads over lack of signings. Ki Sung-Yeung, Martin Dubravka, and Kenedy were the only new faces that moved to Tyneside heading into the seasons start.
“Ten days before the start of the season now and this is a wake-up call, ” Benitez sobbed. “We have to realize we can’t make these mistakes. Things are not going well off the pitch and you can see a reflection of that on the pitch.”
Yoshinori Muto, Federico Fernández, Schar, Salomon Rondon, Mikel Merino later joined the Magpies. The Swiss defender, though, was perhaps the least expected to make any sort of impact. Not after a forgettable campaign that culminated in relegation. Surprisingly, however, he proved the most shrewd.
Although the ex-Basel prodigy struggled at the start, he has thrived within Benitez’s three-man center-back system alongside Florian Lejeune and Jamal Lascelles. All three formed a solid collaboration and work in cohesion to limit the opposition’s threat.
Schar is capable of dealing with most threats that come his way, whether that be in the air – posting a solid aerial duel success rate of 47.1% – or with his impressive, his ability to step up into opposition passes to cut out brewing danger. The ability to read and intercept the ball has proven most imposing.
For center-backs who have played 20 Premier League matches or more this season, he ranks second behind only Southampton’s Jan Bednarek for the most interceptions per 90 minutes, averaging 8.66.
Not just clever in reading the ball, he also averages an impressive 1.3 progressive runs per 90 minutes.
As a result, he has built a reputation of stepping forward with the ball and being confident in dribbling past the opposition. He also possesses the quality in his locker to thread line breaking passes forward for his side.
He isn’t scared to hit the target and takes no prisoners in the challenge. The defender is strong in the air and positions himself to defend with the nonchalance of a seasoned veteran.
Indeed, Rafa Benitez’s side has won an impressive ten matches of the games he started compared to just one of 16 when he hasn’t, with Schar’s tackles (2.8 from 2.4) and interceptions (3 from 1.8) per 90 increasing significantly from his time in La Liga.
Schar’s outrageous 60-yard lob against FC Aarau in October 2011 went viral and less than 12 months later, he was signing on the dotted line at record Swiss champions Basel. Under Rot-Blauen legend Murat Yakin, the center-back capped his debut season with the club’s fourth successive domestic title.
Three years after he landed in Germany with Hoffenheim and in another hattrick years he moved to Spain. None of his adventures can match the Queen’s country. Schar should be proud.
Written by Toby Prince
Follow Toby on Twitter @prinzToby