Newcastle United’s disappointing 2-0 defeat to Aston Villa hammered home some painful truths that had been somewhat masked by their back-to-back wins over West Ham United and Bournemouth prior to it.
Namely that the team possesses very little attacking threat – particularly if they’re not making the most of set pieces – and that the Jonjo Shelvey-Isaac Hayden tandem doesn’t have enough defensive stability.
With that said, head coach Steve Bruce must recall midfield starlet Sean Longstaff against Manchester City next time out. Yes, Shelvey’s passing ability may be missed, but the all-round quality of Longstaff will be much needed against the champions.
The 22-year-old is back from suspension, and will be pretty fresh having made just seven starts so far this season [Source: Transfermarkt], and so his fantastic partnership with Hayden must be reinstated.
While you might think Shelvey will stay in given his status as captain in Jamaal Lascelles’ absence, his selection is simply too risky against a team like City.
The statistics from this season show that Longstaff provides a creative threat, the passing ability to try and control games, and the defensive ability to shield the back five alongside Hayden.
As per WhoScored.com, the Englishman is averaging 1.5 tackles, 1.1 interceptions, 1.1 clearances and 0.4 block per game. Meanwhile, he’s produced one assist thus far and averages 1.4 key passes an outing.
Matty Longstaff is another option, of course, but Sean’s superior experience is what’s needed against Pep Guardiola’s side. He simply must come back in for the beleaguered Shelvey after his horror show against Villa.