When Jonjo Shelvey initially stepped on Dele Alli, just about every Newcastle fan was furious. Up until that moment, Newcastle was coping quite well against the Spurs. As expected though, Shelvey’s red card opened the game up for the Spurs to eventually win 2-0.
Newcastle fans were rightfully disappointed. Jonjo Shelvey had been impressive in the preceding season. To adequately prepare for the rigorous PL season, Shelvey had even cut vacation short to start the season fitter than ever before. It really looked as though Shelvey was starting to fulfill his potential. Unfortunately, this incident served as a reminder that he still had work to do.
To neutral spectators, this incident just about confirmed any biases about Jonjo Shelvey. He’s a decent player whose lack of discipline has consistently failed him.
At the time, Diame hadn’t yet hit his stride. Since central midfield options were limited for Rafa, Shelvey didn’t have to struggle too hard to get back to the starting lineup. Of course, Rafa Benitez would make him earn his place, but returning would be possible. Disappointment from Newcastle fans and spectators around England seemed like the worst consequence of the incident.
In the second half of the season, Jonjo Shelvey has really improved his game. Newcastle have climbed out of the relegation zone thanks in large part to Jonjo Shelvey’s fine form. Over this period, we have all been witness to Shelvey’s unique playmaking ability.
With Shelvey in arguably the best form of his career, it is surprising that he was not called up for the latest England friendlies. A quick comparison of Shelvey to the other fringe central midfielders selected in March says it all:
The stats suggest that Jonjo Shelvey is better in attack and just about middle of the road in defense. Since Gareth Southgate favors Jordan Henderson as part of a central midfield pair, any potential central midfield partner must be good in attack. That is, an attack-minded central midfielder would perfectly balance out defensive-minded Jordan Henderson.
It is very possible that none of the players compared above will go to Russia. However, at the very least, Livermore and Cook received chances to prove themselves as worthy of inclusion. Jonjo Shelvey has received no such opportunity.
The main argument against Jonjo Shelvey’s inclusion in the squad is undoubtedly his disciplinary issues. Most who agree with Southgate’s decision to not give Shelvey a chance cite the opening matchday incident. However, since the start of 2018, Jonjo Shelvey has not picked up a single booking. Other teams have often tried to rile him up, but he has remained calm. Time will tell if he has truly turned the corner, but it sure does look that way right now.
It truly is a shame that Jonjo Shelvey has not been given a fair chance to earn a ticket to Russia. With his forward passing ability, Jonjo Shelvey would be a good player to have around, especially in a midfield anchored by Jordan Henderson.