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.