Newcastle United's midfield and creative flaws laid bare at Leeds United – Liam Kennedy's SEVEN Elland Road takeaways

It was a night to forget for Newcastle United as their midfield and creative flaws were laid bare for all to see at Elland Road.

Outpassed, outthought and outworked from minute one to 90 by Marcelo Bielsa’s vibrant Leeds United side, the Magpies trudged the short journey back north with egos bruised, points dropped and identity questioned.

But what did our writer Liam Kennedy make of the performance? Our Newcastle United writer picks out his SEVEN key takeaways from the encounter, including a concerning dip for Sean Longstaff, question marks about Jeff Hendrick and Jamal Lewis as well as some Callum Wilson concerns.

The curious case of Jeff Hendrick

LEEDS, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 16: Steve Bruce, Manager of Newcastle United and Marcelo Bielsa, Manager of Leeds United walk off the pitch following the Premier League match between Leeds United and Newcastle United at Elland Road on December 16, 2020 in Leeds, England.The match will be played without fans, behind closed doors as a Covid-19 precaution. (Photo by Newcastle United/Getty Images)

The Irishman now finds himself as the Magpies' second top scorer in the Premier League this season. Quite remarkable really.

The midfielder, playing off the right, chipped in with his second of the season and was OK out there, having flattered to deceive for much of the season.

The problem we have is, we don't yet know where he is meant to play, or what his role is really supposed to be.

Central, right, deep or further forward? This is genuinely anyone's guess.

LEEDS, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 16: Jamal Lewis of Newcastle United during the Premier League match between Leeds United and Newcastle United at Elland Road on December 16, 2020 in Leeds, England.The match will be played without fans, behind closed doors as a Covid-19 precaution. (Photo by Newcastle United/Newcastle United via Getty Images )

Longstaff stasis

The story of Sean Longstaff at Newcastle United is a complicated one.

A classy looking midfielder deep or in a more advanced role, he looked set for international honours and Premier League plaudits.

Roll the clock on near two years and he's gone from a £40million midfielder - Manchester United were tempted at a little less than that price - to a player who has lost all semblance of who he really is, as a footballer.

LEEDS, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 16: Callum Wilson of Newcastle United is challenged by Luke Ayling (l) and Liam Cooper of Leeds United during the Premier League match between Leeds United and Newcastle United at Elland Road on December 16, 2020 in Leeds, England.The match will be played without fans, behind closed doors as a Covid-19 precaution. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

It's been sad to see his demise. So much talent, so little progression.

Links to Spurs and new agents? I think he needs to start performing at NUFC, before any of that comes into play.

But we do have to remember, Longstaff is still a young lad, with plenty of room to grow - and we need to hope Bruce can help nurture the player to display the talent he undoubtedly has.

Too much hype, too young? Maybe. But consistent performances are needed to silence the growing number of doubters.

LEEDS, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 16: Isaac Hayden of Newcastle United reacts after the fifth goal for Leeds United during the Premier League match between Leeds United and Newcastle United at Elland Road on December 16, 2020 in Leeds, England.The match will be played without fans, behind closed doors as a Covid-19 precaution. (Photo by Newcastle United/Getty Images)

Wilson starved – it’s just not good enough

Callum Wilson has seven goals and three assists this season - and let's be honest he's done it by feeding off scraps largely.

Imagine what he could do in a side that actually has possession and creates chances regularly?

I often feel sorry for the frontman, chasing lost causes, closing down with little help, flicking the ball on to himself.

It's a good job he doesn't mind doing the dirty work - and does it very well - but his talents are wasted if United don't get the ball into the box for him to finish. That has to be at the top of Steve Bruce's Christmas list - unlock the door for Wilson to further thrive.

Positive changes/negative impact

What worked against West Brom didn't against Leeds United. But, I don't hold it against the manager for trying it.

Positive changes at the weekend which saw Jacob Murphy and Matt Ritchie shifted to full-back, saw United wrestle back control of a game drifting away from them and snatch a late win.

Similar positive changes - bringing the likes of Miguel Almiron and Dwight Gayle into the mix as the game wore on - did nothing to alter the course of this one, in fact you could argue Almiron's introduction had a detrimental impact on United's defensive unit.

Penalty changes the game – but would it have been deserved?

Callum Wilson was chopped down in the area with the game finely poised in the second half - it was 1-1 at the time.

VAR checked it - NO PENALTY.

Liam Cooper took man to play the ball and swept away Wilson's leg with his follow through. That tackle anywhere else on the park is a foul - and given how hot referees have been on contact in the box, this was one looked nailed on, but wasn't given.

It could have altered the course of the game but ultimately would it have been deserved?

Looking at the 90 minutes in full it is hard to make a case for Newcastle United getting anything, with Leeds United dominant from first whistle to last.

SWITCH ON Jamal Lewis!

I like the player, but he is really struggling at the moment.

We just aren't seeing the things that made him stand out at Norwich - his ability to join attacks, overlap, deliver dangerously into the area.

All we are seeing is Lewis defending, getting caught out, napping on the job.

It feels like the time to take the summer signing - still only 22 by the way - out the firing line this weekend.

Why so many changes?

Newcastle United are already knee deep in the busy festive period, with games coming thick and fast - but was it really necessary for so many changes to the side that beat West Brom?

Matt Ritchie was one of United's top performers against the Baggies, so too Miguel Almiron. And I think you can definitely make a case to say Bruce should have started at least one of them.

The caveat to that is, the manager sees these players every day, monitors their training, fatigue and fitness. Ultimately only Bruce and his coaches can make the call on selection, but from the outside looking in it was a strange one to make so many changes and alterations to the side, one that had won and was coming off the back of an unexpected, unwanted but largely untaxing spell - for those without the virus - without a game in December.

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