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Opinion

After his display and touchline exchange with Steve Bruce, surely that must be finally it for Jonjo Shelvey

4 weeks ago
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Ahead of the Brighton game I had an article on The Mag stating that this must surely be the end for Jonjo Shelvey.

That even if Sean Longstaff was ruled out for Brighton, that the limited Ki was surely a better option than persevering with Shelvey, or failing that, what real risk was there of giving 19 year old Matty Longstaff his debut, considering how bad Jonjo Shelvey has been.

In a midfield two it is a long long time since he showed anything near being up for doing enough not to be a liability with a lack of mobility and questionable effort.

Indeed, in the 16 months prior to Saturday, Newcastle had only won two Premier League games when Jonjo Shelvey had started. These was the 1-0 win over Watford last November, Newcastle woeful that day until Ki replaced Shelvey and they suddenly started playing, with Ki passing and moving, as well as running with the ball. All concepts alien to Jonjo Shelvey. Then that end of season win at already relegated Fulham, who collapsed once Newcastle scored the first of four goals.

On Saturday, one of Steve Bruce’s many disastrous decisions was to start Shelvey and only once he was belatedly replaced on 73 minutes did Newcastle show any half-decent play. Allan Saint-Maximin came off the bench at the same time and did well but even Ki just doing the simple stuff and putting effort in, also made Newcastle look at least functional.

Interesting as well to see this morning that there was an angry exchange between Steve Bruce and Jonjo Shelvey after he was dragged off,  Steve Bruce’s chief cheerleader Luke Edwards writing in The Telegraph:

‘Head bowed, shoulders slumped, a permanent scowl on his face, Jonjo Shelvey turned to the Newcastle bench and angrily shouted something inaudible at manager Steve Bruce.

Bruce cupped his ear. Shelvey tried to get his complaint across again but still could not be heard, so he frantically gesticulated with his hands instead. Bruce shouted something firmly back and shrugged.

Whatever the problem was, it was not something he could resolve on the touchline. This was Shelvey’s issue; Shelvey’s shortcomings, Shelvey’s failings.

The game was still young, but Newcastle were struggling and Shelvey looked out of his depth, too slow to cover the ground, too cumbersome to close anybody down, Brighton passed through him and ran around him with alarming ease and regularity.

Alongside him, Isaac Hayden tried to stem the tide, covering the space Shelvey could not, picking up the men his midfield partner had lost. It was a torrid and thankless task as Brighton swarmed all over the Magpies’ midfield.’

Jonjo Shelvey is what he is.

A 27 year old midfielder who can obviously pass the ball but a player for who modern era Premier League football is a step too far.

Steve Bruce was seduced in the summer by Jonjo Shelvey, seduced that is into thinking he could be his key man.

The Head Coach watched him in the friendlies and Shelvey looked relatively good, which of course he can do when presented with his ideal scenario. Weak opposition standing off you in friendly conditions, allowing you to knock the ball about.

The exact opposite of the Premier League.

A league where you have to fight for every second of time and space, a league where you have to match your opponents physically before you have any chance of showing anything else.

Jonjo Shelvey can’t do it.

Steve Bruce even constructed the team plan around Jonjo Shelvey, ripping up Rafa’s blueprint of an attacking trio, with two players supporting the main striker.

The Head Coach playing with three in central midfield so Jonjo Shelvey had his dream luxury position, freedom to play without being expected to do much running or chasing back. It was doomed to failure as it left Newcastle with next to zero attacking threat, Joelinton isolated and Miguel Almiron alone trying to fill this massive void between midfield and the Brazilian.

Even the limited Steve Bruce realised this had been a disastrous move and after defeats to Arsenal and Norwich, he quickly binned the idea, reverting back to a 5-2-3, or rather a 5-2-2-1. Newcastle won at Tottenham, Shelvey dropped and Longstaff & Hayden in the middle. Obviously Tottenham were terrible on the day but still, if Bruce had kept Jonjo Shelvey in the team there was no way Newcastle would have won.

Rafa Benitez quickly decided last season that it was pointless thinking you could rely on Shelvey. Playing eight PL games early on, after injury at the start of November, even when he came back early in 2019, Rafa didn’t even put him on the bench. Only in the final few weeks after safety was ensured, did Rafa give him two more starts, hoping no doubt that it might help him sell the midfielder in the summer to help raise cash for his own Newcastle targets…

Instead, we had the disaster of the manager leaving and also the midfielder staying.

On Saturday, Isaac Hayden ran himself into the ground at St James Park, just as he had done at Anfield a week earlier, trying to make up for Shelvey’s shortcomings and lack of mobility.

Steve Bruce’s team selection, formations and tactics are all over the place but he can’t handicap the team yet again by starting Jonjo Shelvey at Leicester next Sunday.

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