Sean Longstaff has been Newcastle’s surprise star for 2019, but after a flat team performance against West Ham, has too much pressure been put on the youngster too soon?
Since the 21 year old burst onto the scene, Newcastle have looked a different side and have dominated teams in recent weeks.
In wins against Huddersfield and Burnley, the academy graduate was a revelation, dictating the play from deep as well as showing defensive capability.
A goal against Burnley capped off a perfect start to his Newcastle career and it’s sent fans into Longstaff mania.
There have been tongue-in cheek photoshops of Longstaff with a Ballon D’or in hand, as well as more serious suggestions the youngster should play for England.
The pundits have caught on too, frequently likening him to a young Michael Carrick.
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His assured performances have even seen him nominated for Premier League Player of the Month.
It’s easy to forget that the 21 year old still doesn’t even have ten league games under his belt.
For a lot of Newcastle supporters, Saturday’s match was a chance for Longstaff to truly prove his ability.
West Ham boast current Premier League golden boy Declan Rice in their line-up, and Toon supporters were desperate for Longstaff to show up the league’s fellow u21 star.
But things didn’t quite go to plan.
Longstaff vs. West Ham
While Longstaff didn’t have a terrible game against The Hammers, he didn’t exactly show up either.
He was quiet for most of the first half as Newcastle failed to keep the ball, and the 21 year old was guilty of some misplaced passes himself.
But there was flashes of brilliance from the youngster, including a pin-point through ball into the penalty area for Javier Manquillo.
However the game mostly served as an example of Longstaff’s inexperience.
Newcastle’s midfield looked overrun at times and the young star was unable to dictate the tempo of the match.
He wasn’t allowed time on the ball to pick his passes, and often didn’t make himself available for a struggling Isaac Hayden.
A reckless dive into a 50/50 challenge with Robert Snodgrass late into the first half showed his tender years, and ended up costing the midfielder.
It was a desperate lunge from Longstaff, which ended up seeing him pulled off at half-time with an injury.
But was this performance unexpected?
Don’t rush talent
In a way, it’s not a surprise Longstaff was quiet against West Ham.
With the sheer hype around the player in the last month, along with his first PL goal mid-week, the match was always going to be a humbler.
And if that wasn’t enough, there was plenty of added pressures for the 21 year old on Saturday.
Firstly, some pundits and supporters created the unnecessary Rice vs Longstaff debate earlier in the week.
Although similar in age, Rice has more than 40 PL games to his name.
It’s already an unfair comparison.
Nevertheless, it’s unlikely that Longstaff wasn’t aware of the brewing rivalry before the match.
There’s no doubt that Rice scoring in just six minutes knocked the local lad’s confidence.
On top of that, it was also revealed that England assistant manager Steve Holland was in attendance for the game.
Although he may have been monitoring Rice more than Longstaff, it was still a huge change for Sean to impress.
It was all far too much pressure far too soon.
Not even Wayne Rooney was rushed into the England team that quickly.
Longstaff will undoubtedly become a phenomenal player, but he still needs time.
While on loan last season at Blackpool, Longstaff was surprisingly infamous for his pin-point long range shooting.
He proved himself as a goal scoring midfielder and was more reminiscent of Steven Gerrard than Michael Carrick.
This is at odds with the sort of deep-lying midfielder we’ve seen so far, suggesting Longstaff is still adapting to the league.
Newcastle may well have a complete midfielder on their hands, but they must let him get there in his own time.