Steve Bruce's midfield conundrum: Who will start against Southampton?
Sean Longstaff - Photo Credit: (Matthew Ashton/Getty Images

Newcastle United have lined up with a number of different midfield pairings already this season and players suffering and recovering from injuries has given Steve Bruce plenty to think about when it comes to naming his starting 11.

Isaac Hayden and Jonjo Shelvey was the pairing in the middle of midfield for United's opening day win over West Ham United and they both stayed in the starting side for the next four league games.

Both have had injury issues already this season and Shelvey still remains out due to a hernia and this has given United's other midfield options a chance to show what they can offer to the side.

Newcastle have changed their tactics in the last few weeks and have picked up four points in two games since Bruce changed the formation up to a 5-3-2 like system.

In the midfield, United have operated with two central midfielders and  Almiron just ahead of whatever pairing Bruce has gone for.

What are Steve Bruce's options ahead of United's trip to St. Marys'?

  • Isaac Hayden

Hayden had been an ever-present feature of the Toon starting 11 until he picked up an injury in the 4-1 defeat to Manchester United.

Bruce left Hayden on the bench for the next game as his side drew 1-1 to Wolverhampton Wanderers as a precaution but surprisingly Hayden did not come back into the side for the Everton clash.

The tough tackling midfield has won his way into the hearts of Newcastle fans and is one of the first names on the team sheet for many but will Bruce bring him back into the side?

He was only introduced in the 83rd minute in the win over Everton so Bruce may be tempted to keep the same midfield that started in the impressive win over the Toffees.

  • Jeff Hendrick

Jeff Hendrick has started all of the magpies' seven league games so far.

The Irishman has mostly but used as wide midfielder but only in the past two games has he been used in his preferred central midfield role.

Against Wolves, Hendrick was part of a bizarre midfield trio including Ryan Fraser and Miguel Almiron, who was in a slightly more advanced position.

The former Burnley man partnered Sean Longstaff in the 2-1 win against Everton with Almiron again playing just ahead of the two.

The Republic of Ireland international scored on his debut at the London Stadium but Newcastle fans will have been underwhelmed from what they have seen from him since.

His lack of pace and apparent inability to pass the ball forwards can be frustrating to watch but clearly Bruce sees something in the 28-year old and he seems the most likely to be given the nod on Friday against Southampton.

  • The Longstaffs

Both Longstaff's have had a difficult start to the season as a result of injury setbacks.

Sean started his first league game of the season in the Everton win and showed signs of his form in the 2018/19 season that saw him the talk of a big money move to Old Trafford.

It was an impressive display from the 23-year old and arguably his best performance under Bruce.

It seems likely that Sean will be rewarded with a place in the starting 11 when the magpies travel to Southampton.

On the other hand, Matty Longstaff is yet to feature this season following an injury layoff.

He has played twice for the Under 23s since his recovery in a bid to gain match fitness.

Out of all the midfielders United have at their disposal, Matty is possibly the one who possesses the best engine and he is comfortable operating in either box.

The 20-year old is probably unlikely to feature against Southampton but going forward he will be a useful asset for his side.

  • Likely pairings

So far this season, Bruce has demonstrated loyalty to players that have helped the magpies win games and as such it is likely that he won't change a winning combination.

Sean Longstaff/ Jeff Hendrick was the duo that featured against Everton.

Another possibility that the Toon Head Coach has is pairing Sean Longstaff with Hayden.

The duo have a good history together and had an impressive run of games together in the 2018/19 season. Their most notable display together came in the impressive 2-1 win over Manchester City.

Whatever duo selected by Bruce, they will have a difficult job against a Saints side featuring including the in-form James Ward-Prowse.

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