‘Very difficult’ - Eddie Howe makes Sandro Tonali Newcastle United training confession
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Tonali burst onto the scene in the Premier League with a stunning debut performance for Newcastle in the 5-1 win against Aston Villa. The midfielder opened the scoring and had a hand in two further goals on the opening day of the campaign, but his form has since dipped slightly with The Magpies losing three consecutive matches.
Tonali missed the 1-0 win over Brentford following an injury while on international duty with Italy before returning to his former club AC Milan for the Champions League group stage opener on Tuesday night. The 23-year-old started the match but was withdrawn in the second half after struggling to make an impact in the 0-0 draw.
Still, Howe is confident he can bring the best out of his £52million summer signing on a consistent basis.
“There is no doubt we can get the best out of him,” said The Magpies boss. “In the short period of time he has been here, his performance against Aston Villa was high level.
“There was no surprise that that performance against Villa came when he’d been with us for pre season which is four and a bit weeks of intense work getting to know his team mates.
“Since then he has hardly trained with us. Internationals, injury. I think he has had one training session in near enough a month.
“Which then gives you a clue. That is tough for any new player transitioning into a team. You need to train regularly. He is adapting well. He is an incredible personality, stable, committed to the project here and he will grow as time goes on.”
Amid Tonali’s lack of training time, Howe has had a number of midfield injury issues so far this season with Sean Longstaff only recently returning to full fitness after an injury in pre-season and Joe Willock and Joelinton currently unavailable.
And when asked if the midfield injuries have prevented Howe from easing Tonali into the side as he did with Bruno Guimaraes last year, the United head coach told The Gazette: “That’s very difficult to say.
“My preference with new signings is always to do that, but it depends. If there is a necessity for them to play then you play them but my preference is always to give them a look at everything first.
“Whether that’s training, looking at how the team functions, their environment, I think that’s the best way to get long-term success.
“And don’t judge a player too early, I’m not talking about anyone in particular there but you have to give them time to grow into the team which gives them the best chance of long-term success.
Howe added: “I want him to be himself, which is an outstanding technician, a very good athlete.
“For me, he can play all of the positions in midfield. But we need to give him time. I don’t think we can judge him, or any signings, within a month. Let’s take our time and be patient, because I know the quality of the player that we have.”