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Opinion

Where does Matty Longstaff fit at Udinese?

1 month ago
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Alongside the prolonged wait for news on the ownership status of Newcastle United, supporters are waiting anxiously to see if young midfielder Matty Longstaff is to sign a contract extension with the Magpies.

In recent weeks, Head Coach Steve Bruce has claimed in press conferences that the club have offered him a lucrative new deal, but there is yet to be any official announcement, as to whether or not Longstaff is here to stay.

In addition to Newcastle United, it has been rumoured that Serie A side Udinese have made him an offer which is to make him one of the top earners at the Italian side.

This has left many fans asking the question of, given their position as a mid-table Serie A side, why Udinese?

Luca Gotti’s side currently find themselves 14th in the Serie A, eight points outside of the bottom three, having won nine, drawn eight and lost fourteen of their thirty one games this season. However, despite seeming like the Italian equivalent of the Magpies, Gotti’s brand of football is a far more attractive proposition, given the huge offensive influence from the midfield, with Rodrigo De Paul, Seko Fofana and Ken Sema scoring a combined ten of Udinese’s thirty goals in Serie A this season. Given Udinese’s offensive reliance on their midfield, adding a player of Matty Longstaff’s dynamism to their midfield could benefit them greatly.

Udinese have fluctuated between a 5-3-2 and 3-5-2 in Italy’s top flight this season, and have achieved some impressive results, including a 2-0 away victory to Roma, a 3-0 victory over Sassuolo and a 4-0 win against Bologna.

Gotti’s midfield has come under a lot of praise for its attacking fluidity and immense technical capabilities. Udinese’s three-man midfield tends to be anchored by Walace, and orchestrated by two players filling roles as eight/ten hybrids, providing large final third contributions and making themselves responsible for the playmaking elements of the team, in both passing ability and attacking movement. These roles are often filled by a partnership of Rodrigo De Paul and either Ken Sema or Seko Fofana.

It can be expected that Longstaff would fill one of those two more advanced positions, in behind an effective forward pairing of Stefano Okaka and Kevin Lasagna, where he would be entitled to more creative freedom than currently available at Newcastle United, as often the midfield duo have been found far deeper than the attacking quartet in Steve Bruce’s 4-2-3-1.

Unless Matty Longstaff was to be used in the number ten role, it is unlikely that he will have a huge effect in the Newcastle team, given that he would be restricted to a deeper position, with an expectation that he would become a part of the defensive unit, where his skill set does not suit.

However, an eye-catching element to Longstaff’s game is his eagerness to be involved and to both win the ball and be on the ball. This makes Udinese a strange proposition, as these characteristics seem far better suited to a much more high pressing team but, like Newcastle, Udinese tend to actively sit-off from their opposition, opting to attempt to soak-up pressure, and score from counter-attacks. At times, this style of defensive structure has proven catastrophic for both sides, with results like Udinese’s 7-1 loss to Atalanta earlier in the season, or alternatively, Newcastle’s 5-0 defeats against Leicester City and Manchester City this season.

Given Longstaff’s age, it would make far more sense for him to move to a side that presses higher, and looks to control the game, but the on-ball movement is what makes Udinese an attractive option.

In conclusion, whilst Matty Longstaff is adored by Newcastle United supporters, some changes would have to be made to the style of play in order for him to have any real future at the club.

This, under Steve Bruce, seems unlikely, given that he has found a defensively sound system which will maintain his status as Newcastle manager under the current regime, as it maintains the club’s top-flight status.

Furthermore, these Udinese rumours do make sense, as Matty Longstaff would be a perfect fit for the Serie A side’s fluid counter-attack, making them a very attractive club to help further his development as a player.

If a change in ownership was to happen, and a forward-thinking manager like Mauricio Pochettino or Massimiliano Allegri were to be appointed as manager, Newcastle United would be the best option for young Matthew Longstaff.

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