The World Cup break after this weekend’s round of fixtures means that Dan Ashworth and Eddie Howe have a number of weeks between November and December to piece together their strategy for the window, with no games to occupy their thoughts in that time.
They could attempt to improve the team in January to improve their chances of securing a place in Europe next season, with the club currently sitting third in the table after 14 matches.
Ashworth could now land an upgrade on current first-team gem Sean Longstaff by securing a deal to bring the Major League Soccer talent to St. James’ Park at the start of 2023.
South American football expert Tim Vickery previously heaped praise on the LAFC maestro, who has caught the eye for Ecuador at U20 level, telling talkSPORT:
“He was the beating heart of that side and I think he’s a terrific midfielder. He’s strong, he’s got quality, he’s got a good engine – he’s one of the best all-round midfielders, potentially, that I’ve seen come out of South America in a while.
“Get him, sign him on! Ecuadorians are only just beginning to forge careers in Europe. Sometimes the adaptation for them isn’t easy… but this fellow Cifuentes strikes the ball well, moves across the field, strong in the tackle, strong on the ball, I like him a lot.”
Vickery lauded his multitude of skills and Cifuentes’ statistics in the MLS in 2022 back up the praise.
He has registered seven goals and six assists, whilst creating 11 big chances for his teammates, and made 2.3 tackles and interceptions per game – recording a SofaScore rating of 7.04 across 36 outings.
Longstaff, meanwhile, has averaged a SofaScore rating of 6.74 or lower since the start of the 2021/22 Premier League campaign and chipped in with two goals and three assists in 38 matches in that time, whilst making 1.6 tackles and interceptions per match this term.
These statistics suggest that the LAFC star could be an upgrade on the 25-year-old Toon academy product in the middle of the park as he has the potential to offer more on and off the ball, by winning possession back more frequently and contributing with more in the final third.
He is also two years younger than Longstaff and could, therefore, have more room to develop and grow under Howe’s coaching, which could make him an excellent signing for the future as well as the here and now.