Journalist Dean Jones has admitted that he is surprised Eddie Howe has only handed Sven Botman four starts so far this season.

The towering defender was the biggest arrival at St. James’ Park for most of the summer as he came in for £35m from Lille, before PIF decided to splash out a club-record £63m on Alexander Isak.

Botman was originally targeted in January before the Toon moved again in the off-season to sign the 6 ft 3 centre-back, fending off competition from Serie A champions AC Milan to secure his signature.

However, the Dutchman is yet to nail down a starting berth in the side and after regaining his place in the starting XI at home to Crystal Palace, he was replaced by Dan Burn for the draw with Bournemouth last weekend.

The manager later confirmed that he gave Burn the nod due to his leadership abilities, which has left Jones taken aback.

He told GIVEMESPORT: “It was a brave call and Eddie Howe seemed to indicate it was Dan Burn’s leadership skills that gave him the edge for the last game. Botman has only started four games and I think that’s quite surprising.”

Being left-footed like Burn, it was always reasonable to think that Botman might find it difficult to dislodge the Englishman given his form since arriving on Tyneside.

When compared to Fabian Schar and Burn, the 22-year-old actually ranks the lowest when it comes to interceptions last season as well as second behind Burn for shots blocked (Fbref).

He again ranks third in both metrics per 90 minutes this season (WhoScored) but, like last term, his pass success rate of 86.9% is superior and is actually second among all teammates on Tyneside. 

However, it appears that he will have to be content for now with sharing responsibilities to the left of Schar before eventually becoming a permanent fixture in Howe’s side.