Newcastle have put in some stellar performances in recent weeks, not least a 2-1 win over champions Manchester City, and were unlucky not to get a point from their clash with Tottenham. One key factor in their fantastic showings has been Sean Longstaff, who has excelled as a holding-midfielder.
Rafa Benitez seems to have found his winning formula at St James’ Park – playing with a back-five and two central midfielders, the Magpies have plenty of bodies between their opponents and the goal but can spring a counter through their wide-men, while Longstaff and Isaac Hayden sit.
The latter was keen on a move away last month but is striking up a solid, young partnership with the former, who has broken through to the first team in recent months, making just his third Premier League start against City.
Pep Guardiola was full of praise for the duo in his post-match interview, saying that his side “could not deal” with them. For a 21-year-old thrown in at the deep end, it surely doesn’t get much better. Longstaff’s emergence though, could be terminal to Mohamed Diame’s Magpies career.
Guardiola: “We could not deal with Newcastle’s holding midfielders.” #nufc
— Lee Ryder (@lee_ryder) January 29, 2019
The Senegalese has made 21 league appearances for Newcastle this season but, with Miguel Almiron set to come in and the aforementioned midfield duo, plus Ki Sung-Yueng and Jonjo Shelvey to compete with for a spot at the base of midfield, he surely won’t make too many more this campaign.
The 31-year-old joined from Hull in 2016 and has chalked up eight goals and three assists in all competitions since, but is yet to contribute this season.
Despite his versatility – the number 10 is capable of playing deep or further upfield – there seems to be no room for him, particularly now that Longstaff has stamped his authority on the starting XI.
The only people more shocked by Newcastle’s 2-1 win over Man City than City fans were the Magpies fans themsleves! Check out their brilliant reactions in the video below…