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Opinion: Newcastle must not let defensive destroyer travel Longstaff’s path

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Two sagas have dragged on at St James’ Park over the last couple of months, and it appears, at least for now, both have reached their conclusions. The Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund backed takeover is off the table, with the Kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund pulling out of the deal to replace Mike Ashley as owner.

Meanwhile, Matty Longstaff is no longer officially a Newcastle United player after his contract at St James’ Park expired, though a new offer is still on the table should the midfielder wish to change his mind.

Isaac Hayden is in an eerily similar position to Longstaff, with the defensive midfielder’s deal in the northeast due to expire at the end of the 2020/21 campaign. Newcastle United cannot let the former Arsenal player exit the club in the same manner as the 20-year-old academy graduate has recently done and must secure Hayden to a new deal.

Just a year ago the 25-year-old central midfielder was the subject of interest from elsewhere with reports emerging that suggested Hayden was determined to leave Newcastle United. However, he experienced a change of heart and occupied a key role under Steve Bruce for the majority of the season, starting 26 Premier League matches.

Furthermore, Hayden exerted a significant influence defensively, as no Magpies player made more tackles per game than his average of 1.9, while Hayden also recorded 1.3 interceptions per 90 minutes in the Premier League last term.

Only Nabil Bentaleb, 3.5, recorded a greater number of tackles and interceptions per game combined than Hayden of all the Newcastle midfielders. But the on-loan Algerian international returning to Schalke only serves to further highlight the importance of the 25-year-old’s defensive contribution from the engine room.

With Bentaleb gone, Hayden remains Newcastle’s most astute midfielder at recovering possession, 3.2 times per match. Without the Englishman’s influence in the middle of the park, the Magpies could be left in a position where they are incredibly easy to play through.

The longer Newcastle leave Hayden’s contract, the more his situation will become like Longstaff’s and could end in the same way, with the midfielder departing. It is of the utmost importance that Hayden is offered a new deal in order to prevent another standoff occurring.

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