The win at Spurs was largely down to Steve Bruce changing back to the formation that served us so well last season, with two central midfielders and three in attack.
The balance of the team was so much better, on and off the ball. Crucially it saw Issac Hayden and Sean Longstaff resume their partnership in central midfield, and unlike the Arsenal and Norwich games, Hayden wasn’t appearing out on the right wing and Longstaff was able to get on the ball and join in the attack.
So that leaves us with a question, what to do with Jonjo Shelvey? Is he a A luxury we can’t afford? I think so.
Despite all the signs pre season that Steve Bruce would build the team around him, he once again finds himself in situation where the teams looks stronger without him. Bruce simply has to stick to the 5-4-1 formation which served us so well last season and at Spurs.
In the first two games, Shelvey was basically the fulcrum of the team in the midfield three, meaning Hayden and Longstaff/Ki all must play a little wider than their natural positions.
In the opening game, he was given the run around by a very mobile Arsenal midfield, while his contribution off the ball at Norwich was almost none existent, despite his pre season claims that he’d been working overtime on his fitness.
Of course he will always show brief moments of quality on the ball, but in essence, I think we’re too predictable and slow when Shelvey plays. Everything seems to be based on getting him on the ball, and when he’s dropping so deep and taking the ball off the centre back’s toes then it gives teams time to set up and nullify us. When you consider Schar (Lejeune when fit) are excellent at bringing the ball out and starting attacks, there is simply no need for him to drop so deep.
I do think he is a talent, I was one of the people campaigning for his inclusion in the 2018 World Cup squad after a fantastic second half to our first season back in the premier league. However even then he was playing a little further forward, due to Lejeune coming back into the team. He can still be a game changer off the bench for us this season. I am dreaming of the day one of his guided missiles lands on the head of Andy Carroll, but as it stands, the Longstaff/Hayden axis is absolutely our strongest partnership in central midfield.