How do you fix a problem like Jonjo Shelvey?
Signing for £12 million in January 2016, the midfielder’s time on Tyneside has been up and down to say the least. We’ve seen the absolute best from him at times, dictating play and splitting defences open with his glorious passing range.
But we’ve also seen the worst of him. At times he’s been wasteful in possession, wanting to be the main man and spraying passes into touch like a poor Steven Gerrard impersonator.
Rafa Benitez couldn’t find a place for him in his team, so Shelvey was probably quite excited when the prospect of a new manager emerged this summer.
Steve Bruce came in and immediately took a liking to the England international. Shelvey was at the heart of the midfield, the player who everything would go through.
But after two games, Bruce changed the system and dropped the 27-year-old. Just like last season under Benitez, the 3-4-3 or 5-4-1 formation just doesn’t suit Shelvey. He hasn’t got the legs like Isaac Hayden or Sean Longstaff, who are able to get around the pitch and disrupt the opposition.
While Shelvey is certainly a better passer than those two, their energy is much more important.
So yet again, Shelvey is on the bench, waiting for an opportunity. It’s clear what he needs to do when he gets a chance. The playmaker must show he can be trusted to play a disciplined role at the heart of Bruce’s midfield.
Otherwise he’ll have to settle for substitute appearances when Newcastle need a source of inspiration, just like last season under Benitez.