Matty Longstaff has been a regular talking point for Newcastle United fans since his debut goal against Manchester United.
Although he did end up signing a new contract, he hasn’t developed much since that day and a lot of blame needs to be attributed for the way he has been managed. He was rarely used following the lockdown, with his contract situation blamed for this. Since signing his new deal, he hasn’t had many opportunities. When he has played, it has felt like he has been put in near impossible situations, such as Boxing Day against Manchester City.
Despite the difficult situation, Longstaff managed to emerge with credit, due to his work rate and tenacity in the middle of the park. He may not be a hugely technical player, but he does have qualities that are missing among the rest of the squad. There is also an obvious enthusiasm to perform well in a black and white shirt. At times this season, a similar desire hasn’t been evident in the performances of more senior players.
It was always going to be difficult to make an impact against Manchester City, due to their obvious quality and the lack of possession that we had in the game. In such matches, Longstaff has an obvious value to Steve Bruce and the game plan employed.
During the match, the younger Longstaff completed two tackles and two interceptions. He showed more willingness to close down opposition players and that is nice to see from one of our players. In the majority of matches, we are very passive and that can make us very easy to play against. This is one of the biggest issues that supporters have with the current manager.
However, it may be in possession that Longstaff impressed most. He didn’t get many opportunities on the ball, but he was intelligent in possession when he did have it. During the match, he completed 90% of his passes, which was the highest pass completion in the team.
This has been another issue for Bruce this season, as we have been careless in possession, as shown by our season average pass completion of 76.3%.
It will be interesting to see what happens next with Longstaff. At the age of 20, he needs to be playing regular minutes at first team level. With only 119 Premier League minutes to his name this season, his development has stunted. The performance against Manchester City was encouraging, but he needs to be given a chance to build on that.
If he is casted back into the shadows, there needs to be scrutiny of the way that Bruce is managing his development. Due to his energy and intelligence on the ball, he has something to offer the team right now, as we lack in both departments.
On the other hand, if he isn’t going to be used regularly, we should find a good loan for him to continue his progress. We may be approaching a new year, but the same issues remain with the younger Longstaff, how to manage his development.