England: Jonjo Shelvey deserves a World Cup spot

With the Newcastle midfielder reportedly set to miss out on the 2018 World Cup, we ask whether this could be a mistake.

oliver stein by Oli Stein

REUTERS/Scott Heppell

Although Gareth Southgate is due to release his 23-man England squad for the 2018 World Cup in full this afternoon, news is beginning to spread and RealSport understand that both Joe Hart and Jack Wilshere will be missing out on a seat to Russia.

Another name seemingly sitting at home this summer is Newcastle United’s Jonjo Shelvey. 

The 26-year-old hasn’t appeared for the Three Lions since 2015 and has never featured in a major tournament but he’s found himself in brilliant form towards the end of the season.

Southgate seems to pride himself on picking form over reputation and it’s for this reason Shelvey should, at the very least, be considered.

What disciplinary problems?

A World Cup is a different ball-game entirely. There’s no denying that. There’s extremely little room for error and managers require every member of their squad to demonstrate non-stop focus.

For a player perceived to have disciplinary issues, this may prove problematic, particularly in the dying moments of a game in which England are protecting a lead and the opposition are doing all they can to agitate them. However, it’s harsh to include Shelvey in this bracket.

REUTERS/Scott Heppell

The Newcastle midfielder was on the receiving end of three Premier League yellow cards in 2017/18, the last of which came in Newcastle’s 1-0 away defeat to Everton in December. In fact, Shelvey hasn’t been booked since a January FA Cup tie against Luton Town.

It’s difficult to ignore the two red cards Shelvey has been issued in the league, but the fact that he’s maintained a clean disciplinary record since January shows he’s able to manage his temper without it affecting his game.

Understanding Southgate’s decision to exclude Shelvey is made all the harder by including Jake Livermore, a player part of a dismal West Brom side who drunkenly stole a taxi with Baggies teammates in Barcelona.

A player like no other

It’s a simple matter of fact that England don’t have a player with the same skillset as Jonjo Shelvey. 

Jack Wilshere can’t string together a run of games to earn a call-up, nor has he particularly impressed this season, whilst Harry Winks has been injured. Furthermore, he‘s too inexperienced to merit a place in Russia.

This leaves Shelvey as England’s only midfield orchestrator. There’s no other player that will sit in front of the defenders looking to recycle possession and pick out passes like he does.

REUTERS/Scott Heppell

Perhaps that’s Jordan Henderson’s role for England, but the Liverpool captain doesn’t have Shelvey’s vision. For example, whilst Henderson boasts a better passing accuracy, Shelvey created eight more chances, made seven more key passes and registered one more assist.

Moreover, Henderson’s field of vision is somewhat limited, demonstrated by the fact that Shelvey recorded a longer average pass length than his compatriot. 

England need a player able to play long passes into their final third attackers when necessary, avoiding laborious build-up passages of play through the centre of the pitch.

Dual threat

Shelvey’s passing is perhaps the most attractive string to his bow, but he’s a gritty Englishman that knows how to get down and dirty. He won 20 tackles, 16 aerial duels and made 27 interceptions, highlighting his intelligent positioning.

Able to defend, able to create from deep positions and similarly able to carry the ball to the final third; Shelvey completed 17 take-ons this season. Once there, he has the vision to set up a teammate or take the opportunity on himself, attempting 35 shots this season, scoring once.

It’s clear that Shelvey represents a different option to those that England currently possess, but there’s also no denying that the 26-year-old is something of a gamble, not having appeared for his country since 2015. 

Perhaps the World Cup is neither the time nor place for such a gamble, but this would be one worth taking.

What are your thoughts on Jonjo Shelvey’s omission from the England squad? Let us know by commenting below.

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Oli Stein

Oli graduated from the University of Bristol with a degree in History and has worked with RealSport since September 2016. Currently assistant football editor and Tottenham correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @steinoliver_

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