When Jonjo Shelvey signed for Liverpool in 2010 he was considered to be one of the bright young midfield talents in the English game. He put pen to paper at Anfield no doubt hoping to learn from one of the games greats, Steven Gerrard, and eventually be a key feature in Liverpool’s midfield. Sadly, things never worked out for Shelvey at Anfield. There never seemed to be a plan for the former Charlton Athletic man. His 6 goals in 10 games while on loan at Blackpool was an indication that there was potential there. He was of course a very young player at this stage. Yet, there was an inability to find a place for the young midfielder in the side. Brendan Rodgers’ appointment made no difference to his Liverpool career, a year after taking the manager’s post Rodger’s sold Shelvey to Swansea City. It is since his arrival at the Liberty Stadium that we have seen Shelvey develop into the midfield talent he was earmarked to be at young age. He is now a key cog in Garry Monk’s impressive side and a place in the England squad for the upcoming Euro 2016 qualifiers.
So, why wouldn’t it work for Shelvey at Liverpool? How has he become such an influential player for Swansea City? Most importantly, should he now be a regular England starter in the midfield now?
Watching Swansea City’s blistering start to the season it is easy to pick out exciting talents like new signing Jordan Ayew, on-form striker Baftembi Gomis and electric winger Jefferson Montero as the shining lights of Garry Monk’s team. However, arguably the best money Swansea have spent since promotion to the Premier League was the £5 million they spent on Jonjo Shelvey. At the heart of their midfield he is the lynchpin that allows the attacking talent in front of him to shine. Let’s take the recent win over Manchester United as an example. The second goal was a thing of beauty from the Swans. Ayew’s outside of the boot through ball was delicious and rightly received a lot of praise for its quality. But, that whole move started with a first time pass from Jonjo Shelvey out his own half directly into Sigurdsson in United’s final third. It was a supreme touch of class from Shelvey that is easily overlooked because of the quality that came after it.
This is exactly the type of attribute that I believe separates Shelvey from the rest of England’s cast of midfielders. That attribute is his ability to link the midfield to the attack so directly. He works at the base of that midfield as the man his team mates can trust to give the ball to. It is the role that has made Michael Carrick so popular with Manchester United. It is also a quality that Steven Gerrard was renowned for. All the worry about replacing the Anfield legend and nobody realised they had the replacement right under their noses.
Look at England midfielders over the years that weren’t appreciated enough for their qualities because they would rather play a combination of Lampard and Gerrard even though it clearly didn’t work. Paul Scholes is one of the greatest midfielders of this generation, lauded by fans and most of the greats for his talent. He was moved to the left wing to accommodate Steven Gerrard? How ridiculous is that? But they did it. No wonder he retired from international football in 2004. Also, Michael Carrick only has 33 England caps. Just let that sink in. What’s even worse is that he made his debut in 2001 and has only made 33 appearances for England in 14 years. Yet, these are two players that play the exact role that England have needed for years. I am not going to say right now that Shelvey is the calibre of Paul Scholes or Michael Carrick. But, he plays a similar role and England can’t afford to look over a player like that again. Rather than looking to select the supposed ‘superstars’ and ‘household’ names that they have in the past, England should be playing a player like Shelvey who has definitely shown to have the quality needed to play a very important role in the starting 11.
There are players who seem to thrive when they are given the onus of being the ‘main man’ for their team. Samir Nasri looked at his best for Arsenal when Fabregas was injured. He took the load on his shoulders and flourished as the man everyone looked to for creativity. Since Shelvey has signed for Swansea it has become clear to me that he flourishes under that same role. Liverpool were too scared to put that role on someone like Shelvey. Nothing against Steven Gerrard but as long as he was at the club in his later years he was being ‘accommodated’ and unfortunately it was at the expense of a future talent in Jonjo Shelvey. In Swansea’s midfield he dictates play, plays an array of different passes and even moves forward out of midfield to take on shots and get involved in the final third.
This all comes down to Shelvey though. Should he not take advantage of regaining his spot in the England squad then he can only blame himself. However, he needs to be given the opportunity to prove himself. England fans have ended up looking back at certain players going “he should’ve got more games”; hindsight is wonderful. But, if you don’t learn from it and continue on the same road you will end missing out on more potential starters. You have a guy like Shelvey who has been fit and firing for a Premier League club for three seasons now, yet a guy like Jack Wilshere, not knocking his ability here, struggles to get by 10 games a season but you want to rely on him because of his name and status in the game.
I am not going to sit here and say that Shelvey is the answer to all of England’s problems and that he will lead them to the Euro 2016 trophy. But, far too often have players like him been treated as an afterthought. He already has been by Liverpool, luckily he has been good enough to fight himself back into the national picture while still only 23 years old. There is an obvious quality that Jonjo Shelvey brings to Swansea City and if I was Roy Hodgson I would make sure I give him ample opportunity to prove he can bring that quality to the national team.