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Opinion

Jonjo Shelvey squeezed out at Newcastle United

2 weeks ago
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Jonjo Shelvey had a difficult start to the 2019/20 season.

Ahead of the season Steve Bruce made clear he was building the team formation around the midfielder, playing three in midfield so that Shelvey would have a more free role and less expectations on tracking back.

It quickly proved unworkable and after being dropped after a dismal 3-1 defeat at Norwich in the first away game, despite scoring, Jonjo Shelvey found himself dropped. Named on the bench in five of the next eight Premier League games, he watched on as Newcastle beat both Spurs and Man Utd.

However, from November onwards the midfielder was back to being Bruce’s key man.

Jonjo Shelvey starting 25 of the final 28 PL games and only named on the bench twice.

Coming back into the team he has supported since being a kid, Shelvey was the key man as he ran the show and scored the winner in a 3-2 victory at West Ham.

Moving on to football after restart, Newcastle won two and drew two of the opening four matches.

The fourth of those was a home game against West Ham, Jonjo Shelvey scoring the goal that earned a point in a 2-2 draw and confirmed him as top scorer with six goals, afterwards Steve Bruce said this about Jonjo Shelvey – 6 July 2020:

“Jonjo Shelvey understands what we are trying to do.

“As a footballer, all the things that come naturally to him are the most difficult.

“What he has done is add to his natural ability.

“He has added a physicality to it, getting up and down the pitch.

“At the moment he is the complete midfield player.

“With the top players, that is what they can do.

“Jonjo Shelvey more than anyone has gone to town in terms of what he can do physically and we are reaping the benefits.”

The final five matches after Steve Bruce described Jonjo Shelvey as the complete midfielder, saw Newcastle lose four and draw one, conceding 13 and scoring only three, the NUFC frailties exposed once again, particularly in terms of protecting the defence. Not all of it Jonjo Shelvey’s fault of course but he looked a real link as Newcastle lost the midfield battle in all five games, including against the likes of Watford and Brighton.

Moving forward now and Newcastle have finally added some credible signings, the last two days seeing Callum Wilson, Ryan Fraser and Jamal Lewis coming in.

Steve Bruce has by design or accident failed to mention why Jonjo Shelvey has been missing recently. No sign of him in the final two friendlies or in training shots released by the club. Presumably injured but whilst Steve Bruce was happy to detail other players’ injuries on Saturday after the poor performance and defeat to Stoke, he left out Shelvey.

Whatever the situation with Jonjo Shelvey, he looks set to be missing against West Ham on Saturday.

I have a feeling that barring injuries, Shelvey won’t find a place in this new look Steve Bruce team. Whether that ends up with him leaving as a surprise departure remains to be seen, in these final three weeks of the transfer window after the season kicks off.

When everybody is fully fit, I can’t see how Steve Bruce can leave out any of Wilson, Fraser, ASM and Almiron in his first eleven.

Assuming that is the case, I don’t see how there is room for Jonjo Shelvey in the first choice starting eleven.

With those four playing, it will mean a far more attacking set-up (barring any more bizarre Steve Bruce tactics…) and I think Sean Longstaff has to play in the middle with Isaac Hayden to give Newcastle the defensive base and legs, that will allow that attacking formation to work. In the pre-season friendlies, Hayden and Longstaff have been the two NUFC players to get most minutes on the pitch.

Steve Bruce talked in July about Jonjo Shelvey being far more mobile but I didn’t see it, maybe marginally more so, but nowhere near what is needed if Newcastle are going to try and play more attacking football.

The question then will be whether Shelvey would be happy to stay as not an automatic first team choice?

Jeff Hendrick isn’t the most exciting signing but certainly he has the energy and mobility to be back-up to Sean Longstaff and Isaac Hayden, to do the donkey work, which will hopefully allow the front four to do their stuff.

Interesting to see what team selection Steve Bruce goes for in the coming weeks, plus of course whether or not we see any more movement in, or out, in these final weeks of the transfer window.

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