Why Newcastle midfielder Matty Longstaff's Aberdeen and Scottish football 'long ball' claim is nonsense

There have been few more underwhelming signings in Scottish football this season than Matty Longstaff.

The midfielder arrived at Aberdeen with a strong CV for one so young. There were Premier League appearances for Newcastle United as a teenager plus a goal on his league debut against Manchester United. A strike so good it was voted goal of the month.

Alongside brother Sean Longstaff, Matty was highly-rated at St James’ Park and there was even interest from Serie A side Udinese.

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Therefore, excitement was understandable following his arrival.

His impact was minimal. There were just five appearances for the Dons, three starts and he didn’t finish 90 minutes once. He was recalled by Newcastle before being sent on loan to Mansfield Town until the end of the season with the team pushing for promotion under Nigel Clough.

It makes his analysis of his time at Pittodrie and in Scottish football even more jarring.

‘Long ball kind of game’

He told Mansfield Town’s website: “It was an eye-opener. It was the first time I’d been out on loan. You get to see a different side [of football].

Matty Longstaff had an underwhelming loan spell at Aberdeen. (Photo by Sammy Turner / SNS Group)Matty Longstaff had an underwhelming loan spell at Aberdeen. (Photo by Sammy Turner / SNS Group)
Matty Longstaff had an underwhelming loan spell at Aberdeen. (Photo by Sammy Turner / SNS Group)

“A bit of a long ball kind of game [in Scotland]. But I think everything happens for a reason and I’m just looking forward to getting going here.

“In Scotland everything was more of a fight, there’s probably not as much quality there as there is in the Premier League.

“I’m expecting a bit of both [physicality and quality in Sky Bet League Two].

“I’ve trained with the lads, and they’ve got a great quality but I’m expecting it to be a bit of a fight as well. I watched my brother play in League One a couple of years ago and they’re always tough games.”

To suggest Aberdeen play a ‘long ball game’ is misleading.

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Only Celtic and Rangers pass the ball more often and more accurately than Stephen Glass’ side, while they have the third highest average share of possession with 59.1 per cent.

A bugbear of Dons fans is the amount of possession but the lack of penetration.

Mansfield v Aberdeen comparison

In terms of long passes, as per Wyscout, Aberdeen are fifth with 46.51 per 90 minutes.

The average number of long passes per 90 minutes in the Scottish Premiership is 46.04. In England’s League Two it is 55.03.

Mansfield to their credit are on the lower scale but at 50.17 per 90 minutes.

Comparing their accurate passes, success rate and average share of possession, it is much lower than Aberdeen’s.

Mansfield make 226.4 accurate passes per match with a success rate of 64 per cent and have a possession share of less than 50 per cent.

For Aberdeen it is 368.2 accurate passes per game, a success rate of 78.3 per cent and a possession share of 59.1 per cent.

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Longstaff has been guilty of falling into the typical stereotypes of Scottish football in England. There is direct football, it is competitive and you have to be able to handle a battle and fight. It is a million miles away from the passive Premier League 2 football down south but not nearly as ‘long ball’ as the English lower leagues can be.

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