Dean Saunders seemed unsure why Manchester United were in the hunt to sign Newcastle United midfielder Sean Longstaff with him having not featured much for the first-team.
The Metro previously reported that Man United were willing to pay £30million for the Magpies midfielder to get a deal done, and Saunders wanted to know what all the fuss was about, so asked for his stats while discussing him.
“Give me his stats,” asked Saunders on talkSPORT (17:41, Sunday, June 30th).
David Connolly then obliged and shared why stats may have led Manchester United to consider signing Sean Longstaff from the Magpies.
“Well against the big teams, your Chelsea, your Spurs, your Manchester Citys I think, in those games, he covered more ground than any other player on the pitch,” replied Connolly.
“And even after the game Pep said we couldn’t handle Newcastle, Newcastle did beat them 2-1, we couldn’t handle Newcastle due to their defensive midfielders so I can see where the Longstaff one is coming from because what they will have is their eyes, their ears and the stats to back it up, so that’s maybe where Longstaff comes in.
“As if you just go on someone’s opinion on a player, it’s subjective isn’t it? I know as players or managers we like a certain player, obviously, behind the scenes, the statistics are backing it up with data and often the statistics will boil it down to a certain number of players, comparable to those of other players in similar positions.
“Now it’s a bit like how Leicester signed Ndidi after losing Kante as his stats were so similar to Kante’s it made it a no-brainer and that’s how modern-day signings work.”
Saunders seemed unconvinced by Connolly explaining how stats and signings go hand in hand these days and how Longstaff probably looks good on paper, as it prompted the pundit to suggest that maybe Longstaff covered lots of ground due to not being bright.
“Who is Longstaff playing alongside? Y’know is he covering so much ground as he isn’t the brightest? Chasing like a Jack Russell around the place? Y’know what I mean,” responded the retired forward.
Saunders is clearly unconvinced by Longstaff based on him explaining how his stats about him covering the most ground may not reflect on him in a good light, and the midfielder should invite the pundit to watch him in order to show how good he is.
It’s understandable why Saunders is unconvinced as the 21-year-old managed only 13 appearances for the Magpies in his breakthrough campaign in the 2018/19 season due to injury cutting it short.
However, Longstaff did show enough glimpses of his talent to prove his worth.
The 21-year-old scored twice while assisting one goal in his 13 outings, with nine of his appearances coming in the demanding Premier League.
During his outings in the top-flight, Longstaff averaged 32.56 passes per game, which is nearly as good as Magpies teammate Jamaal Lascelles, who averaged 33.42 passes per game and that is impressive as the Magpies defender was the player who made the most passes for Rafa Benitez’s side, with 2774 across the whole of last season. (Source: Premier League)
So with stats like that for example, it shows how Longstaff can convince Saunders’ of his clear ability if he watches him in action come the new season, as it’s not his fault he didn’t get to play enough to convince the pundit and rack up undeniable numbers.