Sean Longstaff was a bit off the pace in last week’s game against Arsenal. There are a few possible explanations for this.
The team as a whole are still trying to gel as a unit while they get familiar with the new 3-5-2 formation. The most glaring reason could be that it was Sean’s first competitive match since suffering his severe knee injury.
Steve Bruce made the following comments to BBC Newcastle’s Matthew Raisbeck about his young midfielder and his return to full fitness.
“I have to be careful with the lad… Yes, he's back on the grass but he has to get back to feeling normal again.”
— Matthew Raisbeck (@raisbeck10) August 17, 2019
From these comments, it seems like Bruce is thinking about taking a more cautious approach with Longstaff. While he does not directly mention dropping him in his interview, he suggests the importance of being careful with Sean.
Martin Hardy in the Times is reporting that Steve Bruce will, in fact, drop the 22-year-old midfielder at Carrow Road this afternoon.
This comes, initially, as a shock since many would consider Sean one of the first names on the team sheet. Bruce’s preferred formation also consists of a three-man midfield, and the squad only has five midfielders registered.
However, if you really take some time let the news sink in, it really shouldn’t come as too big of a shock. Sean is still very young and inexperienced with only 10 Premier League games under his belt.
He has come off of a severe knee injury that, while it may have healed physically, will still constantly be preying on Sean mentally. Therefore, easing him back into the first team could prove to be the best approach for him in the longterm.
We will have to see if Bruce does, in fact, start Sean from the bench today against Norwich. Also what that would do to the formation.
Bruce could be contemplating using a 3-4-3 against the Canaries, thus sacrificing Sean for another forward. Or he may just stick with the same formation and bring the very experienced Ki Sung-yueng in for Sean for what is a big game for Newcastle.
If he does add the extra attacker, we would hope that Allan Saint-Maximin is fully fit to come into the first eleven. However, if he is still struggling with his hamstring problem, then Yoshinori Muto may be the man to come in.