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Longstaff recall could be key for the Magpies

Published on September 4, 2023
Updated on November 6, 2023
Written by Chris

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Longstaff recall could be key for the Magpies
  • Newcastle midfield a concern after difficult start
  • 57% win ratio with Longstaff starting
  • Could the midfielder’s return get Newcastle back on track?

Newcastle United were handed, arguably, the toughest start to the season of any team in the Premier League. However, after last season’s fourth placed finish, and a total of only seven defeats in all competitions, three defeats from four and only three points on the board is cause for concern, especially given the club’s ambitions.

Recruitment has been sensible, and within the confines of financial fair play. Given the huge progress since the Saudi led takeover, it is possible that the opening to the season is simply the inevitable downturn in form. Progress is rarely linear. 

Amazing Longstaff stats emerge

The highest profile signing of the summer was Sandro Tonali from AC Milan. Many felt a midfield trio of the Italian, Bruno Guimaraes and Joelinton would make the Magpìes even stronger. However the middle of the park has looked unbalanced, even during the thumping 5-1 win over Aston Villa on the opening day of the season. Tonali obviously needs time to adjust to the Premier League and some have been quick to criticise the contribution of the two Brazilians. However, the key to getting Newcastle back on track could be who has been left out rather than who has been starting.

Sean Longstaff played on the right of Newcastle’s central midfield three for the majority of last season. While it was acknowledged that his unselfish running, defensive covering and passing was important, fans and pundits often suggested that when new signings came in he could be the man to miss out. However, when you look at the statistics, leaving out the boyhood Newcastle supporter might not be the answer. The following table shows Newcastle United’s record in the Premier League last season with and without Longstaff in the starting line up.

Longstaff startingLongstaff not starting
Games 2810
Goals conceded per game0.71.4
Win ratio57%30%
Points per game21.4

When people talk of Longstaff’s strengths they often say that “he runs a lot”. That is true but it is only part of the story. His movement is very intelligent. When Newcastle are defending he blocks off passing lanes for the opposition. He fills in for others if they are drawn out of position. Last season, Guimaraes could make forward runs confident that Longstaff would have slotted in. He has proved himself adept at winning the ball and breaking up play. 

When Newcastle are in possession he always offers an option for the man on the ball and passes well off both feet. He makes intelligent forward runs into dangerous positions. Those around him have their lives made easier when he is in the starting 11. Critics, with some justification, point to his finishing. Considering the amount of positions he gets into he should be scoring more goals. However, when you look at the stats and observe Longstaff’s movement United  will find many of his qualities difficult to replace.

Football is a team game and last season Newcastle’s midfield were greater than the sum of their parts. This season, so far, the opposite has been the case. And it has to be remembered that stats do not always tell the full story. Joe Willock has been missing with injury and Joelinton has picked up a few knocks which may have hampered him this season.

Betting Implications

Punters may want to see whether Newcastle boss Eddie Howe restores Longstaff to the starting line up, And whether this has the desired effect. 

As far as the Magpies’ chances this season, the bookies still have them in the top six to eight clubs when offering outrights on finishing in the top four and for challenging for the major domestic honours. Bettors will need to monitor how quickly they can come out of this dip in form, assess how their new signings settle in and how they cope with the demands of Champions League football.

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Chris is a former athlete and a qualified PE teacher. He is a keen football fan, watching many matches at different levels throughout the season, and enjoys following many different sports. With betting and sports sites, he has a keen eye for detail and can to highlight positives and negatives for users. His experience in sport as a performer, teacher, writer and fan allows him to see things from many different perspectives. Editorial Promise