Sean Longstaff, Newcastle United’s central midfielder, has been linked with a move away from St. James’ Park. Particularly, he has been linked with Manchester United since last year.
Rumours intensified so much that Michael Carrick, United’s former Geordie midfield maestro and part of the current coaching setup at the Manchester club, spoke about Longstaff to the Chronicle Live:
“He is obviously a fantastic talent and doing well at the moment. He’s still very young. In terms of Premier League games he hasn’t played an awful lot of games but the future is obviously bright for him”, Carrick said.
“The future is obviously bright for him.” – Michael Carrick
Though both Carrick and Sean Longstaff are both products of the Wallsend Boys Club they are not exactly alike in terms of player profile. Longstaff is somewhat more athletic and generally more tenacious than Carrick, while the latter excelled in many other attribute vital for the position, including vision, first touch, awareness, positioning, and passing accuracy.
Meanwhile, another Newcastle great, Alan Shearer, more recently said of Longstaff: “His injury was unfortunate. Newcastle are a better team with him in it, because of his energy and legs he gives the team – and his ability to receive the ball. His passing ability is fantastic. He was back to what we saw when he first came into the team.”
Responding to comparisons between Longstaff and Carrick, Newcastle’s former manager Rafa Benitez commented that “I can see that [the Carrick likeness], but, at this stage, Sean has more mobility and stamina. Certainly, he has the technique and he can use both feet as well.”
“I can see the Carrick likeness.” – Rafa Benitez
With the above in mind, we decided to look further into Sean Longstaff’s stats to clarify the picture around his current ability. We looked at data for the current season and compared his stats with those of his brother, Matty, his teammate, Jonjo Shelvey, and all of Manchester United’s current midfielders.
We split the comparisons into three broad categories: defensive stats, passing stats, and dribbling. In effect, summarizing the potential duties he would be theoretically asked to perform at Manchester United. Shielding the defence, stopping transitions, maintaining possession, progressing play with forward passes, and, perhaps, carrying the ball when the situation calls for it.
What conclusions can be made?
At the end of the day, like for like comparisons are somewhat misleading and are best avoided. Sean Longstaff’s numbers are generated in a different setup, with a different style of play and equally different objectives. With that said, Sean Longstaff doesn’t fare too badly compared to Manchester United’s own midfielders.
In fact, he does quite well in terms of defensive actions per 90, defensive duels won percentage, and tackles per 30 opposition possessions. He doesn’t perform particularly well in terms of interceptions, which is reflected in his high foul count and yellow card accumulation.
Passing wise, although his total passes are fairly low, indicating perhaps both a stylistic difference between the two clubs but also that play may not always be funnelled through him. However, his overall passing accuracy is close to that of Fred and Pogba. You would expect his long pass accuracy to have been better, especially when you consider all of the aforementioned Carrick comparisons. His through pass accuracy is quite low as well, while his brother Matty is on the other side of the chart, outranking every other player here.
Finally, in terms of dribbling, he surprises here as well. Naturally, his dribbling attempts per 90 minutes aren’t quite high, however, his dribbling success percentage is better than Pogba’s this season, with the main caveat being that the Frenchman has been plagued by injuries and barely featured. It would be more helpful to note that his dribbling is more often than not more successful than that of Matic and close enough to that of Fred.
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