Eddie Howe could look at Joelinton’s transformation as the key to finding the best way to accomodate Sandro Tonali in his side.
Sometimes a change of position is all that is required to release a quality player from his hell and allow him to flourish in natural surrounds. Newcastle may wish to remember that as they wrestle with their problem over what to do with expensive signing Sandro Tonali.
His situation may have been overlooked since a sensational 8-0 away victory when he was left out of the starting line up but it still exists and demands an answer. If Eddie Howe wants encouragement over a possible switch in his search for balance then he need only look to Joelinton – an under-achieving, restrictive and apprehensive centre-forward who by dropping back into midfield became a powerhouse player fit to grace the Brazilian international side.
Perhaps in a similar way the answer to United’s current midfield conundrum is to tweak the role of Tonali and in doing so release the genius of Bruno Guimaraes at one and the same time.
Tonali has struggled since his much trumpeted £52m move from AC Milan but, looking at his wide range of gifts, maybe the answer is to sit him alongside Sean Longstaff deep in the centre of midfield where they can be a shield to the back four as well as the launchpad for United attacks.
From a central role rather than wide Tonali can win the ball and step up to use it with the canvas laid out in front of him. Such a subtle switch of position would also release Bruno to operate as a No 10 which is where he is at his glorious best.
It would free the Brazilian of his defensive responsibilities which do not come naturally to him. Bruno gets exasperated lying deep when discipline is key against quality sides and as a consequence of his annoyance gives away free-kicks risking bookings.
He is much more effective, I believe, as a free spirit allowed to play in a bit of space and should he give way the ball it is much better it happens around their penalty area than ours.
As an added advantage of playing two in tandem Longstaff could cover for Kieran Trippier when United’s skipper gets on his bike and Tonali could do likewise for Dan Burn who admittedly doesn’t venture forward too much or Lewis Hall who certainly does and is a quality attacker.
I have discussed these ideas in some depth with a top football coach who has worked here in the North East and he is in total agreement that using Tonali deep in a central position and releasing Bruno could be the key.