It’s not hard to imagine that Newcastle’s engine room could see a makeover next season considering the rate at which their midfielders are being linked to other clubs. Indeed, the futures of Isaac Hayden and Sean Longstaff remain uncertain, so these are fairy worrying times for the club’s fanbase.
Indeed, according to O Jogo via Sports Witness, Newcastle are very interested in signing Nemanja Gudelj and, in our minds, he’s an ideal replacement for the potentially departing Longstaff, who the Mirror claimed was a major target at the Theatre of Dreams.
Considering that he put in some industrious performances for Sporting last season, averaging 1.8 tackles, 1.5 clearances and 1.8 aerials won (stats via WhoScored) per 90 minutes of action indicates he’s able to look after himself in the middle of the park, protecting a defence.
Obviously, it’s unclear as to whether or not Benitez will remain in charge but much of the club’s success since returning to the top tier in 2017 has been down to the fact they’ve been compact (conceding 48 and 47 goals in their two seasons since winning promotion from the Championship respectively) so a player who would suit that mould would seemingly be quite a natural fit.
While 13 yellow cards in 27 league games is a slight concern, Gudelj’s superior 88.7% passing accuracy over both Longstaff (80.9%) and Hayden (79.4%) also suggests he helps them control games better with his distribution. Now, it’d be silly to assume that Newcastle fans actually want a replacement for Longstaff – one of the rare academy graduates to make it to the starting XI in recent years – but a contingency plan clearly must be put in place.
While ultimately successful, maintaining only an average 42.9% possession (stats WhoScored) and sitting back in defence was also a talking point at times last season. Considering that Benitez’s cautious style was slammed by Sky Sports pundits in August, perhaps the Magpies can do well with someone controlling the tempo of the game, to help retain the ball better.
In an ideal world, Longstaff would stay but, as far as potential replacements go, Gudelj would be a nice fit.
Newcastle fans, do you think Gadelj can help bring bite to the engine room? Join the discussion by commenting below…
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