Fair to say that one of the most contentious Rafa decisions has been not to start Jonjo Shelvey in the last three matches.

It is only a few weeks ago that many Newcastle fans were wondering how it was possible the midfielder could be overlooked by England…

Ian Holloway said that Jonjo Shelvey was the best ever to play in the Championship but should he be an automatic choice for Newcastle in the Premier League?

Well my heart says yes but after looking at the reality/stats, I’m not so sure.

Conveniently, Jonjo Shelvey has started exactly half of Newcastle’s Premier League matches this season and this is how the with and without stats look:

With Jonjo Shelvey in the starting 11

Played 8 Won 1 Drawn 2 Lost 5 Goals For 5 Goals Against 14 Points 5

Without Jonjo Shelvey in the starting 11

Played 8 Won 3 Drawn 1 Lost 4 Goals For 11 Goals Against 11 Points 5

These are the games Shelvey has been in the team:

Newcastle 0 Watford 3

Man Utd 4 Newcastle 1

Newcastle 0 Bournemouth 1

Burnley 1 Newcastle 0

Newcastle 1 Crystal Palace 0

Southampton 2 Newcastle 2

Newcastle 1 Liverpool 1

Newcastle 0 Tottenham Hotspur 2

To be honest, when you start and look at what Jonjo Shelvey has actually done, it isn’t much is it?

The one Premier League match that Newcastle won when he started, was a dismal affair against Crystal Palace when the Magpies didn’t even have a serious chance until Mikel Merino came off the bench and scored from a corner.

Southampton away was probably one of his better displays to help get a 2-2 draw and so far Shelvey still hasn’t got a goal or an assist. Though I admit you do have to give him credit for the goal against Liverpool, it wasn’t his fault he had to reply on the defender kicking the ball off Joselu to grab a point.

Newcastle have conceded more goals (14 v 11) when Shelvey has started but maybe most surprising is that only five of Newcastle’s 16 goals have come in matches when he has started.

I do like Jonjo Shelvey as a player but I have to admit that when I really think about him this season, the image that comes to mind is of him coming way back to get a two yard pass off the centre-backs and then try to hit a Hollywood/Gerrard 80 yard ball that once in a blue moon will bring a goal.

I am not writing him off but I think I do see why Rafa Benitez hasn’t been able to rely on him.

Jonjo Shelvey has to start taking far more responsibility and do it in threatening areas as well as being prepared to carry the ball, not just hit expansive long-range passes that rarely lead to anything, even if they reach their target.

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  • Paul Patterson

    A bit ‘Chicken and Egg’. How can a creative midfielder get assists when the forward keeps fluffing his lines?

  • Damon Horner

    Same with key passes and pass completion stat. He’s undoubtedly capable but it hasn’t come off for him just yet.

  • MichaelMaximusMoose


    • Wor Lass

      He`s another Clarko in disguise!

  • Dillon Tovak

    Jonjo loves the raking Hollywood pass, he’d be more effective in a position to slip in a striker or have a shot. Two things he never does, so he really isn’t a massive loss when he’s out the side.

  • Soldier

    He`s hardly going to get assists when Joselu`s the striker, Gayle is a different story, but Rafa in his wisdom dropped Shelvey. you can make stats look anyway you want

  • nevfur

    Have to agree he would be better played further forward instead of trying too many long passes that too often produce nowt. Still think he has quality in him though. Like to see him in a 3 man midfield with Merino and Hayden/Mbemba

  • TheNutJob

    He`ll start every game next month when Tony Pulis is manager

  • 1957

    What about the WBA game where he didn’t start but changed the game for me when he came on with two or three defence splitting passes and got us on the front foot.

    As pointed out below its difficult to get assists with Hoss upfront, he needs a Gayle firing on all cylinders.

    • TheNutJob

      he`s the best player at the Toon, every time he comes on there`s an instant reaction from the rest of the players, Ritchie`s form has nosedived since Jonjo was benched

  • Danimal

    Clearly, team selection isn’t the problem. I’m more concerned about us only being awarded 5 points for 3 wins and a draw. I know we don’t get penalties or opposition players sent off but this is getting ridiculous now.

  • Leazes Ender

    Maybe just maybe John, Shelvey the best distributor of the ball and reader of the game we have…. hasn’t got any decent targets….. just a thought to ponder…..

    …. I could be wrong here but when you watch the game the one guy who tries to make things happen is also the one his teammates go looking for because they are so uncomfortable on the ball.

    This always happens at this club we look to ship out the best bloody players…. what in heaven’s name is going on in your mind?

    • Rich Lawson

      Just play him from the start,I watched the Leicester match with my eldest daughter who has BT and she kept saying to me ”Is Shelvey injured then ?” Beyond all the criticisms he is the one who is going to show that unexpected piece of match winning brilliance that we currently need.

  • Anita kick up the Hoop

    Shelvey is a liability in a two man midfield.. the only way you can play him is in a three man system where he is given a free roll .. he isn’t mobile or quick enough to mix it centrally and he looks

  • Tomb

    I agree with the first half of your headline

    • Geordiegiants

      Just go with who you think is the best or go off their past reputation. That’s what all the best manager do. It would be great if we got Torres wouldn’t it.

  • Geordiegiants

    I really rate Jonjo, but I also know Rafa does things for a reason. It’s getting very tedious questioning every decision Rfa makes. He knows what he is doing, I will keep saying this over and over, look what happened when everyone started questioning Sir Bobby. That’s why they are top mangers because they don’t just do the what everyone else wants l, they do it their way and come out on top.

    • Tomb

      Yes but it’s equally tedious defending every decision he makes

      • Geordiegiants

        I don’t defend every decision, I point out that he gets more correct than most other mangers around the world. You know the ones, like Pinocchio JK and Charver.

        • Down Under Mag

          @disqus_yVfafdQsOF:disqus @geordiegiants:disqus I think the problem isn’t so much questioning what he is or isn’t doing or defending it, it’s the fact that we aren’t winning games and looking well out of our depth right now. If we were winning matches then no one would care what he was doing, however if you make questionable decisions as manager and fail to win games then of course there will be a public inquest into what is going wrong and everything comes under scrutiny. I don’t think any of us are suggesting Rafa isn’t a good manager and we need to sack him, but there is enough wrong right now to warrant open debate on what could possibly fix things and wondering at why things are being done the way they are. I am quite sure that should Rafa come up with a winning formulae once again that fans will quickly forget…but right now, leaving our best attacking playmaker on the bench is a questionable decision although one I personally am willing to concede is a legitimate concern with his defensive frailties and work rate off the ball.

        • Anita kick up the Hoop

          You are such a sycophant.. if anyone suggested dropping Shelvey you would screech like a scalded cat .. yet you’re now defending Rafa”s decision the leave him out .. have ah opinion for gods sake

          • Geordiegiants

            No I would not, if Pardew or Tufty had left him out, I would of been screaming yes, but what I know is this great mangers make big calls not easy ones.

          • Anita kick up the Hoop

            Hypocrisy.. you may as well chew grass and Baa if you defer opinion to the manager at every turn

    • Mark Potter

      I don’t remember Bobby Robson ever losing three home games in a row. He was “questioned” when we had finished fifth and qualified for EUFA Cup instead of Champions League.

      Top managers don’t do what everyone wants? Wow. We want the team to get results.

      • Geordiegiants

        I don’t remember him losing three in a row either, but I remember him getting hounded. Says it all.

  • 5floorshigh

    you could probably make the same case for all first team players

  • Mrkgw

    Stick Shelvey just behind Gayle as a main striker and I reckon that would reap reward. He is an exceptional passer of the ball and has a good shot on him.

    • Anita kick up the Hoop

      We wouldn’t get the ball in the first place .. Gayle needs a centre forward to play off .. he’s proven time and time again that he can’t play the line role at this level

  • anyobrien

    Dear me terrible article

  • Down Under Mag

    It’s interesting to see people defend the decision to drop Shelvey based on a lack of work rate off the ball but people still question Joselu’s inclusion when that is exactly what he offers the manager. I think it is an interesting discussion and certainly both players have their plus and minus points depending on what you rate as a priority – certainly for Joselu’s critics his goal against Leicester wasn’t what they wanted to see.

  • ghostrider

    When you play someone like Shelvey in an attacking frame, he will reap dividends for you.
    Rafa has Shelvey doing what he has everyone doing, which is grafting their balls off chasing shadows.
    Put Shelvey in the number 10 role and see what happens.

  • nufcslf

    If keeping him on the bench was winning matches more often than not, then fair enough. But that is not the case at all, so as a fan you have every right to question team selection if it doesn”t make you do much more than think that was the same 11 that lost the last however many games. Fatty’s the clubs ultimate wrecker hands down for pi**ing around with his toy for 10 years now and should just f**k off. This last 2 months worth of matches with a shocking run of results is down to the person picking the team and that is the manager. Rafa needs to stay and thoroughly deserves the backing of new owner and a fresh start. Hope it’s not too late to save this season and starts with a win on Wednesday to stay alive while decision is made.

  • ghostrider

    Just like Mitrovic, it’s down to Rafa’s untrusting nature.
    Rafa is Mr cautious and plays the game from his all knowing, all scribbled, everyone take note, Rafa Benitez tactical paper set up of the way the game should be played…binder.

    The stark reality is, if you set up to be cautious then you’re a sitting duck that relies on luck in order not to come unstuck.

    I thought I’d make a little rhyme out of that last bit.

  • Mal

    John, it’s not that long ago you wrote an article criticising Southgate for not including him in the England squad. Fickle or what?

  • Viru leckworth

    Statistics are the third form of lies according to Mark Teain