Matty Longstaff must step up for Steve Bruce following claims Newcastle United’s Deadline Day deal for Hamza Choudhury collapsed due to the Toon’s strained relationship with Watford.
According to Football Insider, Choudhury had agreed to join the Magpies on loan until the end of the season from Leicester City, but saw the move fall through at the eleventh hour due to the St. James’ Park outfit’s “dreadful” rapport with the Hornets.
Newcastle had made progress in their efforts to acquire Choudhury after the Foxes struck a deal with Watford for Nathaniel Chalobah to head to the King Power Stadium, though no moves could occur unless the Championship side also had a replacement on the way.
One target Watford had hoped to acquire is thought to have been Longstaff, however the Vicarage Road outfit saw their approach turned down by both Newcastle and the midfielder, per the Daily Mail.
The Magpies refused to part with Longstaff as his age means he does not occupy a squad slot in Bruce’s 25-man Premier League plans, and believe the 20-year-old can play a role in the second half of the season.
Longstaff has only started four top-flight fixtures this term and has not been seen on the field since United lost 3-0 at Arsenal on January 18, with Bruce opting to leave the Toon product on the bench four times before omitting him entirely against Southampton at the weekend.
Bruce has told Longstaff and his older brother, Sean, that they must be prepared to fight for their places in the Newcastle starting line-up after struggling to establish themselves in recent weeks and months.
“We have had too many disappointing performances (in general) as a team which has led to different changes,” Bruce said, via quotes by Chronicle Live. “Play well and the team picks itself.
“After Everton, the team stayed the same. They [the Longstaffs] have to roll up their sleeves and be prepared for competition for places, which is only natural.”
Matty Longstaff enjoyed a strong run in the side following a recall on Boxing Day to start four of United’s five top-flight fixtures, but struggled to prevent a run of defeats and draws to see his place come under increasing threat with the potential addition of Choudhury.
Yet the Leicester man’s move falling through left the door slightly ajar for Longstaff, who can now seize on that opportunity with both hands after Jeff Hendrick was shown two yellow cards in Saturday’s win over Southampton.
Bruce tasked Hendrick with anchoring the engine room after being forced to drop Isaac Hayden into the backline, only to be let down by the 29-year-old seeing red after a needless shirt pull on Takumi Minamino while already on a booking.
Choudhury would, arguably, have been in the central slot beside Jonjo Shelvey and Arsenal loanee Joe Willock if he had been signed, or would have at least been selected now that Hendrick is suspended.
Like Longstaff, Choudhury has struggled for game time this season – starting only three of five Premier League appearances – but has averaged more than double the number of successful tackles a game as the Toon product (1.4 to 0.6), per WhoScored.
Choudhury also offers more clearances (1.0 to 0.4) and a higher number of accurate passes a game (37.6 to 27.8), to suggest Bruce would have struggled to overlook the Foxes outcast for his ability to help protect the backline but also keep Newcastle on the ball.
Longstaff now has the chance to turn the picture in his favour, and must step up for Bruce when United visit top-four hopefuls Chelsea next time out.