Jonjo Shelvey was much talked about in the lead up to Gareth Southgate naming his 23 man squad.
The Newcastle midfielder’s form in the later months of the season seeing a groundswell of opinion backing his inclusion.
It wasn’t just Newcastle fans either, supporters of other clubs as well as many pundits, ex-players and managers, all thinking he was wort including as he could add something different.
As the day approached for the squad to be named, the bookies actually had him around an even money chance to be picked, having been a 25/1+ rank outsider months before.
There wasn’t outrage for most when he was left behind but many felt it was maybe a missed opportunity and could just possibly be proved to be a mistake.
Moving forward five or six weeks and I personally don’t think anybody could criticise Southgate’s team selections.
The first eleven pretty much picked themselves and the only change I would have suggested (if Mr Southgate had happened to call me…), is that maybe Danny Rose would be a better option than Ashley Young against a Croatia team, where England were expected to maybe have more possession and need players to break the opposition down, rather than defend too much against.
Ashley Young is a better and quicker defender but Danny Rose superior going forward and able to put in balls with his left foot, instead of coming inside.
We’ll never know as it is all hypothetical now, just as it is with Jonjo Shelvey…
However, my opinion is that last night with 20 minutes to go, Shelvey would have been an ideal substitute to come on.
Nobody was suggesting he should have been going to Russia to start games but rather if they needed some inspiration in the final 20 minutes of a game…
England had dominated the first half in terms of both goal threat and possession but then lost their way in the second half, they couldn’t keep the ball and were totally lacking in ideas and creativity. They needed someone to put their foot on the ball, just as Modric was doing for Croatia.
Modric is a better player than Jonjo Shelvey but the Newcastle man is capable of doing some things better than the Real Madrid midfielder, especially killer passes into the likes of a Harry Kane.
When Croatia eventually scored with just over 20 minutes remaining, this is how Gareth Southgate then reacted as the game slipped away from him.
74 mins Rashford for Sterling
90 mins Rose for Young
97 mins Dier for Henderson
112 mins Vardy for Walker
I would argue that of the four changes, only Danny Rose (marginally) improved England going forward.
Vardy and Rashford are both excellent strikers but it wasn’t what England had been crying out for. They needed somebody to feed/pick out Harry Kane and maybe to a lesser extent Sterling as well.
As for Eric Dier, I’m not even sure what he does for Tottenham, never mind England…
I think Jonjo Shelvey could have made a difference as an impact sub with 20 minutes to go, or in extra time. The likes of Delph and Dier, for me they offered nothing different.
To be honest, it was a similar story against Colombia but we got away with that one. So much on top and then once Colombia got the upper hand, England really struggled to create anything. A combination of luck and guts getting them through those final stages and the penalties.
Nobody surely could argue about Croatia’s eventual superiority last night, the stats showing (via BBC Sport) twice as many shots (22 v 11), more than three times as many on target (7 v 2), twice a many corners (8 v 4), and more possession (55% v 45%).
The split between the stats in the first hour and the second hour would be interesting to see, to my mind Shelvey could well have turned the tide any time during that second hour as Harry Kane largely fed on scraps, as indeed had been the case against Sweden as well.
The good news though for Newcastle fans is that Jonjo Shelvey should be spot on for new season with no extended holiday time due to the World Cup, or getting over coming so close to being part of a squad/team that could/should have made the World Cup final and then who knows…