Why Jonjo Shelvey can be Newcastle United’s ideal central midfielder

A last-gasp equaliser in a 3-3 draw with Manchester United in midweek will act as a tonic for a Newcastle fanbase that has not had much to cheer this season.

The St James’ Park outfit have spent the campaign in the lower reaches of the Premier League table and face a relegation fight to maintain their top-flight status this term.

The January transfer window is clearly an important time for the Tyneside club, with Steve McClaren’s men wasting little time in reinforcing their playing contingent.

While the promising and versatile Henri Saivet has been captured from Bordeaux and will offer dynamism and energy, the Senegal international will need time to adjust to his new surrounds.

The club’s other January addition to date will not be afforded such luxury, with £12 million dished out on Jonjo Shelvey and an immediate return on investment needed if Newcastle are to move up the table.

The central midfielder’s career has been a slightly odd one to date; at times the 23-year-old looks inspired and fully worthy of a place in England’s national squad, but disciplinary issues and lapses in focus have blighted his time at the top level.

A product of the stellar Charlton Athletic youth academy, Shelvey was poached by Liverpool as a youngster and an astute group of Reds supporters believed he had the attributes to be a poor man’s Steven Gerrard once upon a time.

Glimpses of brilliance were present but not regular enough, with the odd thunderbolt goal from range, sprayed pass or tenacious challenge having the Kop raise their collective eyebrow.

Had Shelvey shown more patience he might well be a starter under Jürgen Klopp this term, but a thirst to play regularly saw him leave Anfield and move to Swansea in 2013 – despite Gerrard himself urging his compatriot to bide his time on Merseyside.

Again Shelvey stood out in South Wales, with his highlights reel from his time at the Liberty Stadium full of mercurial passes, blood, thunder and a significant amount of footballing acumen.

However, the fact that the Swans were willing to part with the 23-year-old, selling him to a relegation rival no less, hints at an under-riding issue.

On first impression, Newcastle seems like an ideal place for Shelvey to revive a promising career and get back to his best.

The Geordie supporters have bemoaned the hefty influx of arrivals from Ligue 1, with English players and the physical characteristics that they typical encompass missing from McClaren’s squad.

Shelvey’s commitment on the pitch, work-rate and will-to-win first and foremost are elements that lend themselves to any side in a relegation scrap and will be most welcome at St James’ Park.

Jonjo ShelveyHowever, from a functional and footballing perspective, Newcastle have lacked a player of the midfielder’s poise and vision this season.

Too often the industry of Vurnon Anita and Jack Colback has been overcome by more technical and clever opposite numbers, while Cheick Tioté looks like a fragment of the player he once was and seems to be on his way out of the club.

Against United in midweek, McClaren’s men at times lacked a provider from deep, with no-one to orchestrate play when they had the ball against opposition sitting deep.

As a result, centre-half Fabricio Coloccini repeatedly stepped into midfield and looked to unlock the visiting defence by unleashing Newcastle’s attacking players.

This worked on a number of occasions due to the Argentine’s passing precision, but also left him out of position at times and his team vulnerable.

Getting Shelvey on the ball and allowing him to play crisp passes to the likes of Moussa Sissoko and Georginio Wijnaldum on the flanks should see the Tyneside outfit as a much slicker offensive unit.

Another benefit that the new man will offer is the ability to drop deep to pick up possession.

From his time coaching on the continent, McClaren has adopted the ploy of seeing his centre-halves move into wide areas when Newcastle have a goal kick, with Anita dropping in between them to become the first receiver.

The former Ajax man is tidy on the ball but lacks real vision, with Shelvey certainly a more able distributor in this sense.

Few have doubted Shelvey’s ability over the course of his time in the top flight, but consistency and perhaps at times motivation has been missing.

The new man can make himself a favourite amongst the passionate Newcastle supporters by applying himself physically for the cause, but Shelvey’s footballing intellect could be even more important in the side’s chances of staying in the Premier League.

By
I am a freelance football journalist from Northern Ireland living in Broome in Western Australia. I have worked for top media outlets such as FourFourTwo, goal.com, Soccerlens, Football Fancast and Here is the City. I am a lifelong and long-suffering Tottenham fan. Follow me on Twitter at @90MinsOnline
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