Jonjo Shelvey’s creativity and fearlessness has undoubtedly been overlooked by England boss Gareth Southgate following his absence from the 23-man World Cup squad.
Following injuries to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Adam Lallana, many, including myself, hedged their bets on Newcastle United midfielder Jonjo Shelvey to enlighten England’s midfield in Russia this summer. Despite Shelvey’s eye-catching performances at Newcastle, England boss Gareth Southgate bottled his 23-man squad selection by leaving the 26-year-old out in favour of utter dross such as Eric Dier and Danny Welbeck.
Whilst others point to Shelvey’s hothead reputation as a limitation to opportunities such as the World Cup – Shelvey has most certainly resolved his disciplinary issue through seeking support from a personal psychologist. When speaking in an interview with the official Newcastle matchday programme in February of this year he admitted:
“He bought me a little black notebook [his psychologist], and after training and games I’ll write down three things that I’ve done well and three things that I didn’t do well. It helps, because you’ve got something to read back on and something to learn from. I’ll keep doing it.”
His transformation is evident as the central-midfielder has received just one yellow card since the turn of the year.
In an era of tedious, side wards passing English midfielders, Shelvey’s ruthless creativity and utter fearlessness on the ball would have added another dimension to England’s midfield. His pure domination of £89 million man Paul Pogba in Newcastle’s 1-0 win over Manchester United in February proved a particular highlight. His sheer variety of passes and admirable vision served as a reminder to many that the Londoner’s ability should never be questioned. Moreover, Shelvey has proved he can perform at a top level on a consistent basis; having starred in man of the match performances against Leicester, Arsenal and Chelsea during Newcastle’s run-in. Thus, leading the Magpies to a top-ten finish.
With England drawn in Group G with Tunisia and World Cup debutants Panama – it is almost certain that their opponents are going to set up with a defensive mindset in order to frustrate England. Thus, making it evident that Gareth Southgate is going to need tactical diversification to outwit his opponents. Shelvey’s proclivity for the so-called ‘Hollywood ball’ can create a sense of tactical diversity, rather like those of his previous Merseyside neighbour Steven Gerrard. Gareth Southgate may start to suffer regret when turning to his bench, seeking that player with the ability to unlock the opponents defence – realising the absence of Jonjo Shelvey will prove costly.