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Opinion

Jonjo Shelvey proves once again he is biggest Newcastle problem – On the pitch anyway

9 months ago
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On Tuesday night it was difficult to decide between Jonjo Shelvey and Steve Bruce.

Which one of them was the biggest liability for Newcastle United as they tamely slid out of the League Cup.

Losing a quarter-final against a Championship team that rested half their first choice eleven, including their best players.

Watching on TV it alternated between shots of Steve Bruce looking typically clueless on the touchline as the latest shambles unfolded, whilst Jonjo Shelvey quite literally, walked around the pitch.

I don’t think any Newcastle fans with any kind of a clue, still think Steve Bruce is anything but a disaster at St James Park.

However, I still detect some NUFC supporters who not only think Jonjo Shelvey is worth his place in the team, but also is some kind of great asset to the football club.

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 (if we are lucky) each season when Shelvey is up for it and / or has the right conditions. Well Tuesday night at Brentford was very definitely not one of those handful of matches.

I can’t believe a single other Premier League manager would tolerate the way that Jonjo Shelvey plays, the way he puts so minimal effort into Newcastle matches.

Last night we watched him stroll about, walk back to where the centre-backs are, get a five yard pass off them, then either try a ridiculous 60 yard pass that has all but zero chance of initiating a decent move, or play a shorter safer pass. In both instances, Jonjo Shelvey will then simply stand there, or if we are lucky, walk a few yards sideways or forwards.

The idea of pass AND move is totally alien to Jonjo Shelvey, at least it is when he is at a club like Newcastle who employ Steve Bruce.

How on earth is this acceptable???

Jonjo Shelvey should be playing far further up the pitch, look to get balls played to him from the defenders, then carry the ball (imagine that!!!) and play one-twos etc to work the ball towards the opposition penalty area and create chances, or even have a shot himself. We should be so lucky.

Sean Longstaff is getting a lot of stick these days and he hasn’t been great BUT I think between Steve Bruce and Jonjo Shelvey they are perhaps fatally ruining his career before it has even properly got started. Bruce with his clueless and ultra negative tactics and then Shelvey on the pitch leaving the elder Longstaff to cover pretty much the entire middle of the pitch.

Especially in the last quarter of the match when Newcastle United had to get a goal, Jonjo Shelvey should be right up the pitch, trying to get onto the ball in the final third and thread a clever pass or killer cross into the box, or even run (!!!) into the box himself. Instead, it was just more of the same, walking around and trying to hit passes to others, refusing to get in amongst it himself and give it everything.

Defensively, it was embarrassing as well, a number of times the Brentford players simply running past Jonjo Shelvey, as though he is the fat kid who they know is never going to keep up with them.

The malaise that is clearly surrounding Newcastle United increasingly these days, is personified by Jonjo Shelvey. Until we get a proper midfield playmaker into the club (as well as a proper manager), it is all but impossible for anything to change. No wonder Newcastle never dominate possession, how can you when you have such a lazy player as Jonjo Shelvey, unwilling to do what are seen as the essentials in central midfield these days.

When we move into January, quite incredibly, 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.

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.

This season is more of the same, not a single Premier League goal or assist from Jonjo Shelvey.

In February, Shelvey turns 29 and he knows he has got it made. He even got a new contract earlier this year from Mike Ashley, that takes him up to the age of 31, I dread to think how immobile he will be by then. Any movement may be imperceptible to the human eye.

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

In his five years 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.

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

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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