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Opinion

The Jonjo Shelvey question that now needs answering

3 weeks ago
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I’m always interested to hear what Newcastle fans are saying about Jonjo Shelvey.

When I hear what they say, I usually end up asking myself the same question each time.

Are there two Jonjo Shelveys?

The general opinion amongst most NUFC supporters is that we are lucky to have this genius, a brilliant passer of the ball, leaving people bewildered as to how Gareth Southgate can possibly ignore him time after time.

Personally, I see Jonjo Shelvey as a midfielder who is a total liability for Newcastle United, a player so immobile and lazy, he ensures that the team plays a certain way which pretty much guarantees minimal attacking play and goal threat from this NUFC side.

That is apart from the handful of games each season when Shelvey is up for it and / or has the right conditions.

The opening day of this season was one of those days when Jonjo Shelvey was kind of up for it and certainly had his right conditions.

Like last season, when playing West Ham we caught the Hammers in a shambolic state and Jonjo Shelvey ended up with all the time in the world on the ball, pretty much no pressure put on him, so he could stand there and pass the ball at his leisure. The lack of marking / pressure elsewhere on the pitch also meant his passing could then easily hit the intended target.

No coincidence either that Andy Carroll also had arguably his best game in a Newcastle shirt, allowed all the freedom in the world from the centre-backs, ridiculously allowed to time and time again bring the ball under control when it was passed to him, often by Shelvey.

We then saw the true Premier League reality next PL match against Brighton, a well drilled team making both Carroll and Shelvey look anything but top tier level players. The centre-backs easily dealing with Andy Carroll, time after time he lost possession and his lack of mobility clear for all to see. Same for Jonjo Shelvey, it was embarrassing to see Brighton’s midfielders passing and running, with the completely immobile Shelvey unable and / or unwilling to compete. Not allowed the time to just stand and pass, he was a passenger.

It is quite amazing that in a few months time, Jonjo Shelvey will have been at Newcastle for fully five years!

Against poor opposition, Jonjo Shelvey is capable of being a flat-track bully, as shown by five goals and eight assists in the Championship season (2016/17) but if he is that good, why are his PL stats so feeble and why is it that he turns up so rarely in matches in the top tier?

In his first two and a half seasons of Premier League football with Newcastle, Shelvey scored only two PL goals and got seven assists. The opening matches of this season, once again no goals or assists.

Lasts season Jonjo Shelvey had a five week hotspot starting with a free-kick goal (first time he has ever scored from a direct free-kick outside the box in the PL!) in the win at West Ham at the start of November 2019. He scored four goals in the five weeks and was actually running into the box at times!!

However, the rest of his season was just the usual, only two assists and two more goals in the Premier League.

Personally, I just think he has had it so easy at Newcastle United, with such low expectations under Mike Ashley, the fans have overlooked Shelvey’s shortcomings and lack of real effort.

We saw a short burst of half a dozen or so games in February / March 2018 where alongside Diame, Jonjo Shelvey really looked like a player. He had his passing but was also running with the ball and when out of possession was properly chasing opposition players down.

The question is, why can’t he do this the rest of the time?

The truth is, he is not going to suddenly change now and be a proper all round player, all of the time, he turns 29 in February and sadly we will probably see an immobile lazy Jonjo Shelvey get ever worse in those respects.

In his four years and nine months at Newcastle United, I would honestly say I haven’t seen Shelvey have more than 15 really good Premier League games. He has been ok maybe in a similar number of games but that isn’t even one season’s worth of PL matches.

Whilst football was suspended, Matt Ritchie did an interview in May (see below), where he spoke a lot about his mate Jonjo Shelvey.

Ritchie claimed that if Shelvey was properly committed and didn’t have so many distractions, particularly golf, he is good enough to play for Barcelona and Real Madrid.

I would say that if Jonjo Shelvey had been properly committed, he was / is good enough to play for Newcastle United.

Rafa Benitez had his card marked and if Mike Ashley hadn’t forced him (Rafa) out, the Spaniard was set to move Shelvey on in summer 2019 after pretty much totally sidelining him.

Instead we got Ashley’s latest puppet head coach instead and between them they thought it was a great idea to make Jonjo Shelvey the key midfielder and give him a massive new contract.

Newcastle United must be the only Premier League club where no central midfielder runs with the ball, the others all have at least one pass and move playmaker that links up play. most of them having more than one central midfielder willing and able to do this.

It is painful to watch this Newcastle team and for me, Jonjo Shelvey is by far the biggest problem.

A lot of talk about NUFC desperately needing another striker and central defender before the transfer window closes on Monday. I completely agree we need those players (and others!) but by far the most essential need is for a central midfielder to run (quite literally!) the show.

Selling Jonjo Shelvey and bringing in that kind of player could transform this Newcastle team. Well, so long as they don’t take too much notice of Steve Bruce’s tactics….

Matt Ritchie talking to In The Box about Jonjo Shelvey – 6 May 2020:

“I have said to him so many times, he will tell you: ‘If you just got your head down and just focused solely on football, forgot about golf and whatever else he does…

“He’s mad, he will play golf like three times a week and I’m like ‘Jonjo, you can’t do that’, he’s like ‘no matey, I feel better.’ But that is impossible.

“What a player, what a player.

“I have been at Newcastle for four years  now and I honestly have seen him inside the box no more than 10 times, that’s how good he is.

“Just natural ability to see passes, to receive the ball, to move the ball…

“I remember playing against him as a kid. I was playing for Portsmouth against Charlton under 16s and I think he scored a hat-trick, he was unbelievable.

“Obviously he’s got his moves and he has ended up at Newcastle.

“I say to him very regular: ‘Jonjo, if you had your head screwed on you could play for Barcelona.’

“He’s that good, he is he’s got everything. 

“At Newcastle, he hits the longer passes and he’s the one we look to open teams up and create…but I feel like, and this is no disrespect to us at Newcastle, but if he was playing at Barcelona or Real Madrid, you can just imagine, he would just blow teams away with his ability.

“Obviously though, you have to have everything in the right place and he likes his golf too much, doesn’t he.”

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