‘Rolls Royce’ Newcastle United star justified ‘controversial’ decision at Fulham

Sven Botman justified his decision to withdraw from the Netherlands under-21s squad after starring for Newcastle United at Fulham.

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Newcastle United’s 4-1 win against 10-man Fulham, where Miguel Almiron lapped up the plaudits for his goal of the season contender, probably isn’t the obvious time to talk about defenders.

But for Sven Botman, it was an important afternoon in West London. Type his name into Twitter, and you’ll see exactly what United fans thought of their ‘Rolls Royce’ defender.

The 22-year-old cut a frustrated figure when heading into the recent international break. Eddie Howe opted to leave Botman on the bench against Bournemouth, instead preferring a centre-back partnership of Fabian Schar and Dan Burn.

Clearly, the £35million summer signing didn’t accept the decision lightly. But rather than sulk, Botman decided to withdraw from the Netherlands under-21s squad in favour of staying on Tyneside.

And reading the comments of Dutch coach Erwin van de Loo, who said he ‘could not understand’ the decision, Botman put his international future at risk just through the sheer determination of wanting to succeed at St James’ Park.

You won’t find anybody complaining about that on Tyneside. Howe, in particular, was impressed by the sacrifice, with a fortnight’s worth of extended training putting him in good stead for his deserved start at Craven Cottage.

Sven Botman gave Newcastle a different dimension

Although Botman, after Fulham were reduced to 10 men on seven minutes after Nathaniel Chalobah’s late tackle on Sean Longstaff, didn’t have a lot to do defensively, it was evident that the former Ajax academy graduate provided United with a different dimension.

Indeed, the distribution of Botman and Schar, plus their calmness in possession, shouldn’t at all be overlooked. For the second game in succession, the onus was on Newcastle to break the opposition down and two ball-playing centre-halves are hugely beneficial.

As per WyScout, Botman completed 64 passes (18 forward) in total - a high success rate of 96%. Interestingly, when Botman was forced to defend, the stats go hugely in his favour. He won five of his six defensive duels, made four interceptions and 13 recoveries.

Although he faced just one aerial duel throughout the afternoon, Botman’s ability in the air was also on show when he ‘leapt like a salmon’ to meet Kieran Trippier’s short corner. His header, of course, was brilliantly kept out by Bernd Leno before Sean Longstaff powered home the rebound.

Sven Botman’s telling reaction to Fulham consolation goal

With Newcastle 4-0 up by the hour-mark, Howe was afforded time to withdraw the likes of Bruno Guimaraes, Callum Wilson, Fabian Schar, Dan Burn and Kieran Trippier, with Botman the only starting defender to remain on the pitch.

With that, it might have been easy to accept Fulham’s late consolation goal when Bobby Decordova-Reid was left unmarked at the backpost following Neeskens Kebano’s unchallenged cross.

It was telling that Botman was the only player to punch the air in anger. That, indeed, epitomises, Botman and United’s high standards under Howe.

Certainly, in the eyes of van de Loo, it was a controversial decision by Botman to pull out of the Dutch U21s squad but his selection at Fulham, and his strong performance to match, justified it.

Of course, there will be tougher games to judge Botman further but no one can deny that Newcastle United have a special talent on their hands.

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