There may be complaints about Steve Bruce’s football so far this campaign but in terms of results there is little to moan about.
The Magpies have averaged the lowest possession in the top flight with just 40.3%, whilst only three sides have managed less than their 10.3 shots per match, but they are currently in a comfortable 13th position in the table, eight points clear of the relegation zone, whilst they have reached the quarter-finals of the FA Cup for the first time since 2006.
Sean Longstaff, though, has not had the best year. Less than 12 months ago, Manchester United were said to be interested in him, and were even preparing a bid for a player who the Toon wanted over £50m for. This term, though, he has been in and out of the starting line-up, being included on just 18 occasions.
There is one stat that shows just detrimental he has been to the club’s progress – Newcastle’s win percentage with and without him.
Longstaff’s appearance in Bruce’s starting XI has done little to boost the Toon. Of the 18 games in which he has been included on the teamsheet, Newcastle have won just four, drawing seven and losing seven as well. Those victories did include wins against Tottenham and Manchester United, at least, but he was also present for heavy losses against Manchester United, Arsenal and Leicester City as well.
His personal stats have reflected those struggles too – he has won just 48% of his duels this term, whilst he has a disappointing pass accuracy of just 79%.
Without the 21-year-old, though, Newcastle have done significantly better, winning seven of their 17 matches, and losing on just five occasions. In terms of goals per game without him, there has been little difference, with them managing 1.12 a game compared to 1.06, but it is their ability to pick up points that has been boosted in his absence.
The 1-0 win against Chelsea and the 2-2 draw against Manchester City show where there have been positive moments, whilst they conceded more than two goals in a match on just three occasions – two of which came against Leicester and Liverpool, who are in the top three in the table.
Last season, it was a different story – they won 33% of their games with him and 27% without – but this season shows that Manchester United were foolish to even consider a move for him in the previous summer window. According to Samuel Luckhurst of the Manchester Evening News, the 20-time English champions’ interest in Longstaff is yesterday’s news.
Newcastle themselves made a mistake by not negotiating a lower price – his stock was still high last year, and he would have likely commanded a big fee.
As it is, his reputation has plummeted.