Who will replace Isaac Hayden in Newcastle United's midfield? A case for and against the likely contenders
Callum Wilson and Allan Saint-Maximin may provide Steve Bruce with a positive selection conundrum on Sunday against Tottenham Hotspur but the Newcastle United head coach does have a midfield hole to plug.
Isaac Hayden has been ruled out for the rest of the 2020/21 campaign – and given the midfielder has been one of United’s most consistent performers in the engine-room, it gives Bruce, Graeme Jones and the rest of the Magpies’ coaching team a real headache.
Here’s a case for and against six contenders to slot into Hayden’s left of centre midfield slot.
Jeff Hendrick – the status quo
Pros: Hendrick has plenty of Premier League experience and performed this role well at the start of United’s mid-season mini-revival. Was solid in the win at Everton in one of the two more advanced midfield roles. In a low scoring season has chipped in with two goals.
Cons: Doesn’t influence games. Ghosts through 90 minutes sometimes and it is difficult to remember him having much of a meaningful contribution.
Likely selection: 8/10
Sean Longstaff – the scapegoat option
Pros: Is fresh, is mobile and can cover consistently large distances from midfield when on form. A good passer, never hides and when allowed to do so, can find good areas to chip in with the odd goal or two.
Cons: Has been a shadow of the player who broke on the scene under Rafa Benitez and has struggled when relied upon regularly this season.
Likely selection: 5/10
Matty Longstaff – the outcast
Pros: Is a player untainted by recent Newcastle United struggles. Is an immense athlete who has been criminally underused by Bruce this campaign. Has proven he can score goals from midfield and was a key player in United’s Christmas period, pressing and hassling against the best in the division.
Cons: Match fitness would be questionable, give his lack of minutes. Mindset could be another question mark, as it could with brother Sean, given his recent treatment by Bruce. In terms of career progression, should have spent this season out on loan.
Likely selection: 2/10
Elliot Anderson – the youthful wildcard
Pros: A talented youngster who could have a real positive impact on United in the final third with his ability to pop up in pockets of space, his drive and goalscoring prowess, albeit it at under-23 level. Will be riding the crest of a wave after his recent call up by England under-19s, in which he impressed by all accounts.
Cons: Inexperience is likely to count against him, in Bruce’s eyes. Also is better suited to a slightly more advanced role.
Likely selection: 1/10
Matt Ritchie – the experienced head
Pros: Has been there, done that. Quality left peg, infectious drive and has never let United down when called upon.
Cons: Impossible to know how damaged his usually top class attitude has been by his failed January move, the fall out with Bruce. Also is not the player he was two years ago.
Likely selection: 3/10
Jacob Murphy – the thinking out-the-box call
Pros: Best delivery in the squad, can score goals with both feet and create for others.
Cons: Drifts in and out too often. Also another who is better suited more advanced and wider.
Likely selection: 3/10