The 2015/16 season was a difficult one for Jonjo Shelvey as he went from England starter to Championship midfielder, but he has bounced back strongly and is now arguably the best player in the English second tier. Every single player goes through spells of bad form and it is the reaction that shows most about the individual.
Over the last two months, Shelvey has worked hard and has been playing the best football of his career. In the past, the Newcastle midfielder has been criticised for his poor attitude, but he has matured since the appointment of Rafa Benitez and could now be on the fringes of the England squad.
On Saturday, Shelvey was the man-of-the-match for Newcastle in a routine victory over Brentford. This was seen as a tricky game for the promotion favourites, but they had the game won in the first twenty minutes and were never required to move out of second gear.
The former Liverpool man was central to everything good that Newcastle did in the attacking half. His main asset is his passing range, but he has been given the freedom to roam in the final third and that has provided him with the opportunity to influence matches on a weekly basis.
He finished the match with two assists, both coming from wide areas. This shows that Shelvey can move across to the wings and continue to influence the match. His ball for the third goal was excellent, as he took both the goalkeeper and defender out of the game, providing Dwight Gayle with the easy task of slotting home. It was a piece of Premier League quality from the midfielder.
During the match, Shelvey made five key passes as he showed his technical ability, but his defensive contribution was equally as impressive. Rafa Benitez has had a positive impact on the 24-year-old’s career and he is now a complete midfielder. He completed all five of his attempted tackles and made two interceptions against Brentford. Many expected Shelvey to go through the motions in the Championship, but he is approaching each game as a cup final and that mentality has helped his performances.
It speaks volumes that Shelvey has been an ever-present for Newcastle this season, while other players with big reputations have had to settle for minor roles. Rafa Benitez is a difficult man to impress and Shelvey is one of his most trusted lieutenants. If the two remain at Newcastle for the foreseeable future, there is no reason why Shelvey can’t develop into one of the best midfielders in the country.
During the week, Shelvey was discussing his improvement in form and it is obvious that he has hopes of playing for his country again. England were lost for ideas against Slovenia and lacked a central midfielder that could penetrate the opposing defence. Shelvey could be an excellent solution to those problems and those within the FA will be following his progress closely.
Gareth Southgate has been scouting in the North East frequently during his role as U21 manager and will be aware of the midfielder’s resurgence this season. The Newcastle player may have to be patient and wait until he returns to the Premier League until being selected for England again, but his reputation is on the rise again.
This season may not be ideal for Shelvey’s career ambitions, but he has approached it correctly and is now reaping the rewards. His confidence is at an all-time high and if Newcastle are promoted in May, he will come back into the Premier League as a much better player. There are no doubts in this writer’s mind that he will be back in the England squad before the World Cup.
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