Isaac Hayden will rightly take most of the plaudits following yesterday’s win over West Brom but another central midfielder’s performance should be noted.
Indeed, we may not be seeing the glamour passes reeled off with a Michael Carrick-like ease many may well have expected when Sean Longstaff initially broke through, but the 23-year-old looks to be doing the simple things well again.
Looking at his statistics after yesterday’s win (via FBRef), it’s clear to see Longstaff performed his role admirably. Playing alongside Jonjo Shelvey – a man not exactly renowned for his tactical discipline – the academy graduate’s outing was sensible rather than sensational.
However, given the fluctuating nature of his form over the past few years, that’s exactly what was necessary.
Yesterday, Longstaff recovered the ball 10 times (the second most in the side) and his 24 pressing actions – 10 of which were successful – saw him rank the highest of any Toon player. Hitting the mark with all 35 of his ground passes, Longstaff recycled the ball efficiently and the midfielder proved effective even when attempting more expansive passes.
18 of his 20 middle-distance passes found their mark and 10/13 of his longer ones did the same, amounting to a 90% pass completion rate, behind only Miguel Almiron in total.
The Chronicle noted how he was unlucky with a long rage effort, much as he was against Chelsea, and if he can start to expand a touch more, then Newcastle could have quite the player on their hands. Doing the simple things well again after a difficult period, Longstaff is certainly giving himself a base from which to grow into the kind of talent that saw Manchester United linked with a £50m move.
Miguel Delaney did hint that people in the game that Steve Bruce’s old-fashioned approach to management could be holding Longstaff back and, while that could explain as to why he’s struggled for an extended period of time, credit must be given if he can continue to impress.
Would you blame Longstaff for wanting to leave?
This isn’t just one positive outing in isolation, either. While the challenge must now be to produce on a weekly basis, he was equally as impressive in the win over Everton at the start of November, so he does appear to be getting on the right track.
Hopefully for Newcastle, he can start to express himself even further soon.
Steve Bruce wanted to sign an England international, only to be told there was money. Here’s how he could have made the difference…