In a team where high pressing and effort is required in this new formation, the question has to be asked: Why is the AT-AT of midfielders in Jonjo Shelvey continually being played?
At 28 years old, Shelvey should be a player that is in his prime but he seems to be someone defined by a mixture of plateauing, regression and pure laziness.
With the recent retirement of Yohan Cabaye, comparisons need to be made of how our current ‘midfield maestro’ or ‘quarter-back’ stacks up against the man he’s essentially filling the role of.
We purchased Shelvey two years after Cabaye left and he was supposed to be the direct replacement that would fulfil a much-needed role in our team. However, seven years after Cabaye was sold to PSG, we are still claiming that he has yet to be replaced and a large part of that is because of Shelvey is seemingly incapable of reaching anywhere near the standard set by the Frenchman.
Cabaye left Newcastle at the same age that Shelvey is now. He was 28 years old and Newcastle made a £15 million profit on him selling him to PSG.
If Jonjo Shelvey were to be sold now or in the future, would he be capable of making a switch to a similar stature of club? Would we even be able to break even on his sale? I don’t think so.
Rafael Benitez had Shelvey’s number from day one. He knew that he was a luxury player that would be a class above in the Championship but ultimately a passenger and liability in the Premier League. In fact, if Rafa had more control during his time here, I’m sure that Jonjo Shelvey would have been sold to West Ham when given the chance and he would be currently sitting on their bench as they wait to offload him.
So, what’s the solution for this current Shelvey conundrum? We need someone who can move the ball quickly, be creative and provide the energy needed to press teams fully. We need a Yohan Cabaye type player.
Well, the closest Cabaye player in our squad right now is undoubtedly Matty Longstaff.
The 20-year-old is far from Cabaye’s ability as of yet, but he has shown, in all the games that he has played for Newcastle so far, that he has the necessary attributes needed for the way we play football.
Matty Longstaff is basically a Diet Cabaye at the moment. It’s questionable whether he’ll ever reach the heights of Cabaye but he certainly provides the attributes needed to help this current set-up be the best that it can be.
In a midfield three of Hayden, Longstaff and Willock you would be guaranteed the energy and drive needed to keep play ticking in attack and defence. With Jonjo Shelvey as one of the three, you’re guaranteed a passenger who might lazily swing a leg at someone as a form of defence or ruin an attacking move by either passing it back to defence or whacking a ball into nowhere.
With Willock playing, Longstaff wouldn’t have all the creative duties solely on him so he could basically perform as the 50/50 man between defensive work with Hayden and attacking work with Willock.
If we’re serious about improving via this new 4-3-1-2 formation then Shelvey needs to be dropped for Longstaff.