In the last couple of months I’ve noticed Jonjo Shelvey getting a bit of a battering both in articles and the comments sections on this website.
If I’m being completely honest, I’m not sure why this is. I’ve seen people say he looks disinterested, that he’s a waste of a shirt and that he should be sold at the first opportunity. People are claiming that the Swansea fans were right about him.
I don’t understand this at all.
I get that he tailed off last season but some people seem to have memories that goldfish would be ashamed of. His first few games he was being lauded as the long-awaited successor to Cabaye.
Each game he was pinging balls all over the park; that sixty yard beauty for Daryl Janmaat against West Ham being the most memorable. Then he began to become less and less visible until he disappeared altogether and ended up on the bench for the last few games of the season.
Why was he less effective after the first few games?
Well I’ve got a theory. The two games I watched live under Rafa Benitez were against Sunderland and Southampton. Jonjo Shelvey started both games and in both games I noticed the same thing. Firstly, against Sunderland Kirshoff man-marked Shelvey. He was completely anonymous. Against Southampton, Shelvey found himself with a shadow again.
Now Jonjo is not a player who is going to produce quadruple step overs to skip past players before producing a killer ball. He’s a player that needs a yard of space. He likes to receive the ball, get it out of his feet and then pick a pass. When he’s man-marked, he doesn’t have that freedom that allows him to play his game and that’s why he became so ineffective.
When Jonjo Shelvey first signed, everything went through him, so it made sense for teams to stick a man on him and keep him out of the game. Teams could sacrifice a midfield player because it wasn’t like Colback, Sissoko or Wijnaldum were causing them too many issues. Townsend later came into his own and gave us a new outlet and threat.
I think next season, if we’ve got multiple threats for teams to worry about, Shelvey might be afforded the freedom he needs to play his game.
Colback, another player who gets undue criticism in my opinion, can marshall the area between the attacking midfielders and the defence and Shelvey can push on and try to find those vital passes once more. If Gayle, Mitrovic, Ritchie, Perez etc are all providing their own varieties of danger then teams won’t be able to give up a player to take away one of ours.
Give Jonjo time. Half a season in a team overpopulated by players donning invisibility cloaks is not enough to judge him on. Give him a whole season in the Championship with a hungry team of motivated players. Then cast your judgement.
You can follow the author on Twitter @billymerlin