Newcastle United head coach Eddie Howe’s use of Sandro Tonali in an unfamiliar role has been “strange”, as Sky Sports reporter Keith Downieprovides GIVEMESPORT with his verdict on the manager’s use of the midfielder at St. James’ Park
The Magpies have endured a mixed start to the Premier League season.
Newcastle news – Sandro Tonali
Having been in the market for a holding midfielder, Newcastle moved early in the summer transfer window, securing their man at the beginning of July. The Magpies confirmed the signing of Tonali from AC Milan in a deal worth £55m, with the Italy midfielder penning a five-year deal at St. James’ Park. Speaking about the acquisition, Howe couldn’t hide his delight at sealing a deal for the 23-year-old (via Sky Sports).
“At 23, Sandro already has important experience as a key player in one of Europe’s top leagues and in the Champions League, as well as playing for his country. But he also has the opportunity and potential to grow and evolve with us, and I’m excited to add him to our squad as we approach the exciting season ahead.”
The signing was expected to allow Bruno Guimaraes to push forward into his favoured number eight role, whilst Tonali would be the number six just behind the Brazilian. However, the new signing has been utilised as a number eight thus far, with Guimaraes playing the deep-lying role as he did at the end of last term.
What has Downie said about Newcastle?
Downie would like to see Guimaraes and Tonali flip positions and has suggested that Howe may not have wanted to push the Italian in at the deep end early in his Newcastle career. The Sky Sports man expects changes to the system, telling GIVEMESPORT:
“I would like to see Tonali play there. I know he has been playing him further forward, but I think he would be a good pivot to allow Guimaraes, Joelinton or Sean Longstaff to move forward. It seems strange that the one thing that they needed was a number six last year. They needed a holding midfielder to come in. We all thought that when Tonali signed, they had that. It seems unusual that he signed him, and he’s playing him as a number eight. It wasn’t what I expected. I thought he would come in and anchor the midfield, and I think Guimaraes also expected that.
“I think Guimaraes was expecting Tonali’s arrival to free him up to allow him to get further forward. But, in the first few games of the season, he has been playing in that holding midfield role he finished last season in. You can predict that will change. Tonali could revert to a number six, and that will be his role moving forward.
“Maybe Howe didn’t want to put him in there immediately because it’s such a crucial role in the team. If he doesn’t, and he sees him more as a number eight, then Guimaraes must get used to playing as a number six, or they will have to look for another one in the January window.”
What does the future hold in store for Tonali and Guimaraes at Newcastle?
With Champions League football on the horizon, Howe must settle on a regular starting XI quickly to gain enough momentum to earn enough points out of a challenging group. Newcastle open their campaign next Tuesday when they travel to Tonali’s former side at the San Siro. It doesn’t get any easier for the Magpies, with clashes against Paris Saint-Germain and Borussia Dortmund to follow.
Whilst Tonali could revert to the number six position, having lost three out of four Premier League clashes before Saturday’s visit of Brentford, the Italian could argue that he has earned his stripes playing further up the pitch for Howe’s side. He bagged his first goal in Newcastle colours on his maiden competitive appearance, opening the scoring in a 5-1 demolition of Aston Villa at the start of the season.
However, Guimaraes will feel that his impact on the game is restricted at the base of Howe’s midfield, having produced 16 goal contributions in his previous 58 appearances for the Tyneside outfit. The 25-year-old displayed his attacking qualities on international duty, producing an assist in Brazil’s 5-1 World Cup qualifying shellacking of Bolivia last weekend.
Journalist Dean Jones has recently suggested to GIVEMESPORT that Howe could alter his system at St. James’ Park. Therefore, Howe must consider the pros and cons of switching Tonali and Guimaraes’ roles in his Newcastle starting XI ahead of an important week for the Magpies.