Jonjo Shelvey needed a big performance against Aston Villa, but it wasn’t forthcoming.
The midfielder has started Newcastle’s last three games thanks to Sean Longstaff’s suspension, and it’s fair to say his performances have been mixed. While he did get a goal against West Ham, he’s struggled to really impose himself on games like he used to.
This was particularly telling against Aston Villa, who dominated the game on Monday night. The Magpies never had any real control, which more often than not comes down to the centre midfielders.
Shelvey attempted multiple long balls like he normally does, but failed to really cut open the Villa defence. There were many occasions where he could’ve played a simple pass and given Newcastle a spell of possession, but instead went for the jugular.
This will have helped Longstaff’s claim to return to the starting XI against Manchester City on Saturday, but it also increased the need for reported January target Granit Xhaka.
Ever since his falling out at Arsenal, Xhaka has been linked with a January loan move to St James’ Park. The £35 million midfielder is similar to Shelvey in the sense that he likes long passes and dictating play. But in recent weeks, Shelvey hasn’t dictated things at all. A lot of Newcastle’s best bits have came from moments and counterattacks, rather than dominating and keeping the ball.
This is something Steve Bruce’s side needs to work on, which is clearly why he wants to bring Xhaka to Newcastle. If Shelvey was playing better, there would be no need for the Arsenal villain.