Bruno Guimarães recently said he hopes to stay at Newcastle “for much longer”, but with Champions League football next season looking unlikely, will the love of the Toon Army be enough to keep the Brazil international on Tyneside?

Newcastle United fans traditionally ask for three things from their players: giving everything for the club, being very good at football, and unconditional loyalty.

Granted, those are three highly sought-after qualities generally throughout the game, but Newcastle appear to have all three in the form of their latest hero, Bruno Guimarães.

The Brazilian’s importance to Eddie Howe’s side was on show again at the City Ground on Saturday as his two goals helped them to a hard-fought 3-2 win against Nottingham Forest. The first goal was a sublime first-time volleyed finish with his laces after a clever run to the far post, while the second was an accurate low shot into the far corner from the edge of the penalty area.

Both showed off Guimarães’ excellent technique, but goals aren’t usually where he thrives. They were, after all, just his second and third of the season in 34 appearances in all competitions.

Guimarães has been Newcastle’s all-rounder since he arrived in January 2022; their engine, their heart and their skill rolled into one.

His arrival from Lyon for a reported fee of £40 million was one of the first purchases under the new Saudi ownership, and Guimarães quickly set about proving he could take Newcastle to the next level.

After a promising first half-season, he pushed on and was a crucial part of the team that reached the EFL Cup final and finished in the top four of the Premier League in 2022-23. Howe’s side were considered to be ahead of schedule, and in no small part thanks to the performances of their tenacious and talented midfielder.

The tricky part is always the so-called ‘difficult second album’. Could Newcastle go again? Repeat the trick, or even improve on it?

So far, the answer is no. Newcastle are seventh in the Premier League after 24 games and have already lost twice as many league games (10) as they did in the whole of last season (5). They have also conceded six more goals (39) than in the entirety of their 2022-23 Premier League campaign (33).

However, that doesn’t mean Guimarães has allowed his own performances to dip.

In the Premier League in 2022-23, he averaged 53.7 passes per 90 minutes with an accuracy of 84.6%. That has increased to 62.5 passes per 90 and accuracy of 86.6% this season. His creativity is basically identical, creating 1.38 chances per 90 last season and 1.42 this, while his tackles per 90 is slightly down from 2.6 per 90 to 2.3.

His goals and assists output in the Premier League is remarkably similar, averaging 0.13 goals per 90 this season, exactly the same as in 2022-23, while assists per 90 are ever so slightly up from 0.16 to 0.18.

Diving deeper into Guimarães’ numbers, he’s covering the second-furthest distance per 90 (10.36km) of any Newcastle player this season (behind only Sean Longstaff – 10.76km). That is the 19th highest in the Premier League of those to have played at least 1,500 minutes (including added time).

He is also facing the most pressures in England’s top flight this season – a defensive action in which a player whose team is out of possession moves to close down an opposing player in possession. Guimarães leads the Premier League for being pressured while in possession (807) ahead of Manchester City’s Rodri (793), and significantly ahead of Aston Villa’s Ezri Konsa in third place (579).

Most pressured in PL graphic 23-24

Rodri is perhaps slightly better under pressure, losing the ball to a turnover just 4.8% of the time, whereas Guimarães has lost possession to a turnover from a press on 9.7% of occasions, but it could be argued that the City man gets better movement from his teammates to allow him out of those situations.

It should also be pointed out that a much larger proportion of occasions when Guimarães has been pressured have been counter-pressures (28.4% compared to Rodri’s 19.5%). A counter pressure is when a pressure begins within two seconds of the start of possession, so the situations are generally more chaotic.

As you can see from his heat maps below, Guimarães has had more touches in deeper midfield areas for Newcastle this season compared to last season, which means he’s had more of the ball but often in less dangerous parts of the pitch.

Guimaraes heat map 22-23
Guimaraes heat map 23-24

Guimarães said himself after the Nottingham Forest win that he enjoys getting further up the field but is often asked to sit deeper. Perhaps that wouldn’t have been the case if Sandro Tonali had been able to play more following his signing from Milan last summer.

It is perhaps no surprise that Guimarães leads the way for Newcastle in terms of attacking sequence involvements too, with 113 in total in the Premier League, split between 27 shots, 28 chances created and 58 involvements in the build up to a shot. Last season he was second for his side (139) just behind Kieran Trippier (141), though from 600 fewer minutes played.

Newcastle player sequence involvement 23-24

You also have the juggling of competitions. Last season, Newcastle weren’t in Europe. This season, they had a UEFA Champions League campaign, and what a hand they were dealt.

Milan, Paris Saint-Germain and Borussia Dortmund awaited them in the group stage, but after a difficult goalless draw in Italy, Newcastle put Europe on notice. Their 4-1 thrashing of PSG at St James’ Park was a statement performance, with Guimarães at the centre of it. As well as recording an assist for Dan Burn, he created two chances, totalled the most passes for Newcastle (35) as well as passes completed (25), won five of his eight duels (62.5%), won three fouls and won possession 14 times, more than anyone else on the pitch.

Sadly for Newcastle, that was where things peaked. They lost home and away to Dortmund before a draw in Paris was followed by a home defeat to Milan and elimination from Europe entirely.

It perhaps wasn’t too much of a shock, but it also seemed a shame that someone as good as Guimarães was now out of the Champions League. It may not have been a classic campaign, but during the UCL group stage, only Galatasaray’s Lucas Torreira (61), Benfica’s João Neves (50) and Feyenoord’s Mats Wieffer (50) made more recoveries than Guimarães (49) aming midfielders.

Most UCL recoveries midfielders only

It was not the first time he has played in the competition, though. Guimarães also featured in four Champions League games for Lyon in 2019-20, including an impressive 3-1 win over Manchester City in the quarter-finals, making as many tackles as anyone in the game (three) despite only playing 70 minutes and winning five of his eight duels.

As things stand, it seems unlikely Guimarães and Newcastle will be competing in next season’s Champions League, despite the likelihood that the Premier League will have a fifth seat at the table.

Their form has recently improved, though. After losing six from seven Premier League games prior to their recent 3-1 win at Aston Villa, Newcastle have won two and drawn one of their last three. They’re now up to seventh in the table but still 10 points off fifth place, and 11 off fourth and a guaranteed Champions League spot.

The Opta supercomputer says they have less than a 10% chance of a top-five finish, and their likeliest final position is their current one of seventh, which would probably mean participation in the UEFA Europa Conference League next season.

PL season predictor 14 Feb

Is that enough for someone like Guimarães, now 26 and reportedly being courted by some of Europe’s elite clubs? It very well might be.

After the win at Forest, he spoke again of his love for the club and reiterated his desire to “keep going for much longer”. He told Sky Sports: “Sometimes people speak a lot about me. I just speak a lot about football. I’m very happy here, and I like how the fans think of me here.

“I enjoy my time here a lot. I have never felt so loved. The fans have been unbelievable with me and my family. When I get the shirt, I try to play for them. I don’t know [how long I’ll be at the club], but I hope this can keep going for much longer.”

Stories have swirled in recent times about Newcastle needing to sell one of their star players in order to spend more in the summer due to the Premier League’s Profit and Sustainability Rules. Although this has been denied by the club, it’s not stopped talk of Guimarães being in demand, with Paris Saint-Germain credited with a serious interest in January.

A player of his quality will invariably be linked with other clubs, but that’s not to say he’ll go. Even if he does, you’d back Newcastle to find a replacement the same way they found him.

Our Opta Player Radars show Guimarães profiles most similarly this season with PSG’s Fabián Ruiz, Inter’s Nicolò Barella and Chelsea’s Conor Gallagher among others, all players Newcastle have been linked with in the past.

For now, though, Guimarães seems to be very happy on Tyneside where he continues to have a positive influence and is increasing the adoration from the fanbase on a weekly basis.

Champions League or not, maybe that’s enough.

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