Why Sean Longstaff deserves a chance as a Newcastle United number 10
Sean Longstaff has given Steve Bruce food for thought after the Newcastle United midfielder was the beneficiary of a tweak to the system away to Oxford United.
The 22-year-old will admit himself his performances have dipped since he burst onto the scene last season before cruelly having it cut short with a knee injury.
It was the first major injury of his career and perhaps Longstaff has required a little more time than others to battle back mentally, rather than physically.
But a revert back to the role that he carried out so well in Ben Dawson’s under-23s could be the ideal scenario for him and Newcastle.
And his performance in the 3-2 extra-time victory at the Kassam Stadium is the perfect excuse to knock on Bruce’s door and challenge for a role higher up the pitch.
After all, he provided an attacking threat and acted as support for the under-fire Joelinton.
It must have been a relief for the usually isolated Brazillian when he controlled Miguel Almiron’s cross and finally spot a player within five yards of him - Longstaff producing a sublime finish for 1-0.
Impressively, all four of Longstaff’s passes into the final third ended in a 100% completion rate, one of which directly provided Joelinton with his third Newcastle goal.
It isn’t just his first goal and assist of the campaign that should be highlighted. His role also focused on pressing the Oxford defence.
While more of the focus then turned to the pace of Allan Saint-Maximin and Almiron after Joelinton’s injury, Longstaff was tasked with perhaps sitting a little deeper when Oxford piled on the pressure.
But even then, the midfielder still showed the desire to get into the box at every opportunity as he squandered the chance to make it 3-1 - moments before The U’s equaliser.
Indeed, it was almost a disaster for Newcastle in the end before Saint-Maximin’s winner but the role Longstaff played should not go unnoticed, even if it is against lower-league opposition.
You never know, it just might be the key to a better Longstaff and a better Joelinton, just as an added bonus.