Talking Tactics

Longstaff can step up to fire Newcastle's midfield

By Adrian Clarke 15 Feb 2023
PL2223_TT_SEAN_LONGSTAFF

Adrian Clarke says mobility and work-rate will be a boost for depleted Magpies against Liverpool

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Match officials for Matchweek 24

Adrian Clarke looks at key tactical points and players who can be decisive in Matchweek 24.

Sean Longstaff (NEW)

Injuries and suspensions have left Newcastle United short of central-midfield options for the visit of Liverpool, so in-form Longstaff will be asked to step up his responsibilities.

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Longstaff has been superb this season with his consistent, wholehearted displays earning a regular spot in Eddie Howe's starting XI.

With star man Bruno Guimaraes serving the final match of his suspension and Joe Willock out with a hamstring injury, Longstaff is likely to partner striker-turned midfielder Joelinton on Saturday.

If Eddie Howe sticks with his favoured 4-3-3 formation this could bring Elliot Anderson, 20, into the equation for his first Premier League start.

Alternatively, Howe may deploy Alexander Isak behind Callum Wilson in a rejigged 4-2-3-1 system.

Winning attributes

Longstaff brings great mobility and dynamism to Newcastle's midfield.

Out of possession he works hard to pressurise opponents and break up play.

When the Magpies have the ball, he is always looking to play a progressive pass or make a telling forward run.

Of all the Premier League players to have featured for at least 900 minutes this season, nobody covers more ground-per-minutes than Longstaff. His average is just shy of 12km per match.

Longstaff's fitness, stamina and application in an under-strength Magpies midfield will be vital against Liverpool's three-man unit.

Most distance covered 2022/23*
Player Mins. played Distance km/90
Sean Longstaff (NEW) 1,681 11.93
Brenden Aaronson (LEE) 1,623 11.88
Ryan Christie (BOU) 1,038 11.77
Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall (LEI) 1,544 11.73
Roberto Firmino (LIV) 946 11.73

*minimum 900 mins played

He has been in excellent form since the turn of the year.

Longstaff was outstanding against Leicester City and Southampton in the quarter and semi-finals of the EFL Cup, scoring a brace against Saints to confirm their place in the final.

He was also Newcastle's star performer in their 1-0 home win over Fulham, while he has made decisive contributions across the last two top-flight matches.

His sublime through-ball also released Wilson in behind to score against West Ham United. It was Longstaff's third assist of the campaign.

Longstaff's assist v West Ham

Last time out in a disappointing 1-1 draw at AFC Bournemouth, a well-timed burst by the 25-year-old sparked Newcastle's equaliser.

Longstaff's run from deep on the blind side of Philip Billing ended with a fierce left-foot shot that forced a save from Neto, converted on the rebound by Miguel Almiron.

Breaking forward whenever he could, it was one of three shots on target he produced against the Cherries. 

Longstaff's goal involvement v AFC Bournemouth

Liverpool will also need to close down Longstaff’s space when he drifts into wider positions.

He likes to support Kieran Trippier from the inside and from those areas he can deliver quality service.

It was Longstaff's far-post cross which pre-assisted Isak's winning goal against Fulham at St James' Park.

In fact, a third of his 21 open-play crosses this season have found their intended target.

Midfielders' best crossing accuracy 2022/23*
Player Best crossing accuracy %
Riyad Mahrez (MCI) 40.0%
Mohamed Elyounoussi (SOU) 39.1%
Phil Foden (MCI) 37.1%
Daniel Podence (WOL) 35.0%
Sean Longstaff (NEW) 33.3%

*minimum 20 open-play crosses

Newcastle have only scored three goals in their last six Premier League matches, so expect Longstaff to push on whenever opportunities arise this weekend.

His all-round game will be vital to the Magpies' cause as they look to beat Liverpool for the first time since 2015.

Also in this series

Part 1: Can Man Utd shackle Leicester's formidable front four?
Part 3: Hojbjerg and Sarr hold the balance in Spurs' midfield

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