NEWCASTLE UNITED: Brief look at Sandro Tonali

Rohit Rajeev
By Rohit Rajeev
12 Min Read

In a revolutionary set of events that have shook the red and black side of Milan, Newcastle United have completed their purchase of Italian midfielder Sandro Tonali. Reliable sources like Ornstein and Matteo Moretto have linked the fee to an aggregate of €70M.

Born and Bred Milanista, Tonali grew up with Brescia Academy before making the dream move to AC Milan. Although he had a nightmare first season at Milan, he became protagonist in a famous Scudetto for Milan 11 years after their last one. It didn’t stop there as Milan went to UCL semi-final only to come unstuck to bitter rivals Inter.

Fan Favourite, Grinta (passion), grit and desire Tonali was the heartthrob of Milan. But with management changes and financial decisions being taken, Tonali’s sojourn at Milan came to an end with a trip to Tyneside beckoning.


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Having played under Pioli in all of his time at Milan, Tonali played in the double pivot in Pioli’s 4-2-3-1.

Initially, he started alongside Kessie playing on the right side of the Defensive Midfielder playing in a holding role. He would alternate positions with the Right Back Calabria and Saelemakers.

When opposition teams press high up the pitch Tonali acts as the 3rd CB to split their markers and progress the ball.

In the 2022/23 season, he acted as the defensive midfielder and cover for Theo whenever he would move forward.

Whenever he was paired with Bennacer, Tonali would occupy the left offensive half spaces to switch play incase Leao gets outnumbered in the wide areas.

Tonali is also Milan’s designated set-piece taker.


Tonali’s main strength is his workrate and his pace. Playing as a holding midfielder with a high line under Pioli he would make recoveries for Milan incase opposition break through the press and counterattack. He averages 2.96 Interceptions + Tackles won per game.

When playing along with Bennacer Tonali is also expected to progress the play. He likes to break the lines with his dribbling but he can also help Milan break the first line of pressing with his passing. With an average of 7 progressive Actions per game Tonali is also a very apt passer.

Tonali has the ability to make quick 1-2 passing movements as well to break the defensive structure. One of the biggest problems at Milan was their finishing, but it didn’t stop Tonali from their chief creator and had Milan’s forward finished better he would have had more assists than Leão. He has the most chances created, on par with, Keven De Bruyne in last season’s Champions League.

Mentally one could attribute him to be a tough character. A fan of Gattuso, Tonali’s attitude is to fight until the end of the game which provides steel and character to the side. If not for his transfer, he was heavily expected to be the captain of AC Milan

Areas to Improve

One of Sandro’s biggest problem is his inconsistent passing and first touch. Still in a developmental phase of his career, Tonali still can be an “extremes” player where he could go on to have a 10/10 game or a 1/10 game.

Decision making in the final 3rd also needs to improve. With teams sitting back more often than not in Serie A, it required Tonali to make quick decisions and sometimes he would botch those.


For Newcastle United…

Tonali is a tactically intelligent player and his off-the-ball game shows how good of a player he is. Tonali’s defensive stats, viz. tackles and interceptions, demonstrate his impact off the ball and his ability to press opponents effectively. Especially playing for Pioli, whose Milan is one of most press triggering side in Italian football – that’s something Eddie Howe will love to add to his midfield.

In Newcastle’s current midfield structure, Guimaraes plays as the number six, with Joe Willock or Sean Longstaff as potential options alongside him. Tonali is likely to replace Longstaff, as he possesses a more expansive skill set that aligns with Newcastle’s tactical approach. With Tonali in the team, Newcastle can maintain their effective midfield while adding a touch of his dynamic play. Another alternative that Eddie Howe could consider is deploying Sandro Tonali at #6 as he played as a regista for Brescia under Eugene Corini’s setup in a three-man midfield. This could give other midfielders like Joe Willock the freedom to join in up-ahead and contribute offensively knowing there is a defensive powerhouse on cover to defend the defensive line.

Under the management of Eugenio Corini, Tonali assumed the role of a regista (as stated above) within Brescia’s tactical formation, which predominantly operated as a 4-3-1-2 but occasionally that transformed into a 4-1-2-1-2. Tonali would then position strategically in proximity to the defensive line, assuming a commanding role in directing the flow of the game by swiftly distributing passes towards the attacking players, thereby initiating offensive manoeuvres.

Nevertheless, his utilisation by Italy’s coach, Roberto Mancini, has been as a mezzala, a role characterised by its box-to-box midfield capabilities. This decision is likely due to the presence of Jorginho, who fulfils the role of Regista within the Azzurri setup. Tonali possesses the requisite skillset to proficiently fulfil the demands of both roles.

Despite his young age, he effectively executed Corini’s strategic approach while also incorporating his own unique style into the game. Due to Brescia’s limited technical abilities, Corini strategically positioned Tonali in a defensive role to serve as a protective barrier for defence. During the offensive phase, Tonali strategically positioned himself between Brescia’s two central defenders, effectively establishing a defensive formation consisting of five players in the rear guard. Tonali’s primary defensive prowess lies in his exceptional aptitude for game analysis and, frequently, his capacity to anticipate the intentions of his adversaries. This affords him a multitude of opportunities to intercept passes and engage in tackles.

His proactive approach to defensive play has elicited comparisons to Gattuso, a legend of the game especially in that regista role.

It is important to acknowledge that Tonali’s creative output is often inflated by his proficiency in set pieces, particularly from corners.

Kieran Trippier is the designated corner taker for Newcastle, which means Tonali’s creative contributions may be somewhat limited in that regard. Nevertheless, his overall data suggests he is a creative player capable of generating chances through key passes.

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Tonali exhibits the cognitive characteristics that Eddie Howe deems valuable in a player, encompassing qualities such as resoluteness, guidance, and a robust professional attitude. He has previously assumed the role of captain for the Italian under-21 national team, thereby showcasing his notable leadership attributes. Moreover, Tonali’s participation in the prestigious Champions League and his triumph in domestic championships serve as evidence of his strong determination to succeed.

Strategically, Tonali is a suitable fit for Howe’s preferred style of play, characterised by a reliance on aggressive pressing, rapid transitions, and high levels of energy. Although he may not exhibit the playmaking prowess akin to that of Kevin De Bruyne or the finesse reminiscent of Andrea Pirlo, his box-to-box style of play and astute tactical acumen render him a highly advantageous asset for the team.

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Tonali possesses a distinctive repertoire of skills that he brings to the team, encompassing his defensive prowess, physical attributes, and aptitude for executing precise and penetrating passes. He enhances the midfield by contributing depth and enhancing midfield’s overall quality, thereby offering various possibilities for strategic configurations and structural arrangements.

The arrival of Tonali at Newcastle United also serves as an indication of the club’s ambition. The recent change in ownership has demonstrated a strong inclination towards allocating resources towards acquiring high-caliber players, with the objective of enhancing the team’s standing and level of competitiveness within the Premier League. Tonali’s acquisition has the potential to draw the interest of other proficient players, thereby bolstering Newcastle’s endeavours to secure higher standings in the league and eventually winning them silverwares.

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Nevertheless, it is crucial to acknowledge that Tonali’s acclimation to the Premier League and the exigencies of English football might require a certain period of adjustment – like it does with many of em’ who makes move to England. The demanding nature of Premier League in terms of physicality and speed can present challenges for players who are transitioning from other leagues. It is anticipated that Tonali will require a certain period of time to acclimatise and establish a harmonious pace within the team.

Moreover, Tonali is likely to face heightened expectations and increased pressure as a result of his transfer fee, which has set a new club record. His performances will be subject to close scrutiny by both fans and experts, and any decline in performance may result in the expression of critical opinions. The effective management of expectations and provision of adequate support by the coaching staff and the player himself will be of utmost importance in facilitating Tonali’s adjustment and success at St. James Park.

In its entirety, the acquisition of Sandro Tonali by Newcastle signifies a noteworthy declaration of purpose. This statement emphasises the club’s aspiration to participate in elite competitions and construct a team with the ability to contend for prestigious accolades.

Sandro Tonali possesses a distinctive set of skills and exhibits tactical aptitude, which renders him capable of exerting a favourable influence on Newcastle United’s performances and actively contributing to their continuous growth.

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