England could do a lot worse than call up Newcastle midfielder Jonjo Shelvey to the England national team, according to Liverpool legend Graeme Sounesss.
Newcastle have made a solid start to the new Premier League season – amassing 10 points from their opening seven fixtures – with Shelvey bouncing back from a red card in his first appearances to find some of his best form in recent weeks.
Calls have been made for Shelvey to be handed a recall back in the England squad from pundits including Souness and Jamie Carragher following his performance against Liverpool on Sunday.
“I’m going to say something daft but if he got his act together there would be a shout for him to get back into the England squad,” Souness said.
“There are lots of midfielders who are about possession but he wants to hurt you all the time [with a pass].
“A modern midfield player gets away with murder these days because they are allowed to go sideways and the stats say they have kept the ball all day. He has an edge to him, which I love in a player.
“Sometimes he has more than an edge and he has to get that out of his game. At 25 he must have learned his lesson.
“There’s so much to like about him and he’s got so much to offer – he will stand up to someone, he has a pass, he has technique – but he has the exploding head he must control.”
Currently occupying the central midfield spots in the national team are Harry Winks, Jake Livermore, Jordan Henderson, Eric Dier and Dele Alli, who have all been called up for England’s fixtures against Slovenia and Lithuania.
And we’ve compared their stats from the Premier League season so far to see if Shelvey deserves a place in Gareth Southgate’s squad.
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Shelvey has yet to score a goal or provide an assist for a team-mate, however his wonderful through ball to Joselu against Liverpool was deserving of credit. The former Charlton midfielder had the assist taken away from him as Joel Matip’s tackle rebounded against Joselu and into the net.
Winks, Livermore and Dier are in the same boat as Shelvey, with none of the midfielders scoring or assisting in the Premier League for their respective clubs. Henderson, meanwhile, has one goal for the season with the more attack-minded Alli scoring two goals and providing one assist this campaign.
In comparison to the central midfielders in the England squad, Shelvey has attempted more shots this season than any of his peers. The Magpies star averages 3.5 shots per 90 minutes, with Alli unsurprisingly the closest on 2.6.
Alli (3.9) takes the gong for most dribbles attempted per 90 minutes with fellow Spurs youngster Winks (3) coming a close second. Shelvey (0) falls below even Dier (0.6), who is generally deployed in a defensive role by Mauricio Pochettino, while Henderson (0.5) and Livermore (0.8) have also attempted more.
Dier (0.3), Livermore (0.6) and Henderson (0.7) are the least guilty on average of losing possession, while Shelvey gives the ball away on average once per 90 minutes – an improvement on both Alli (3) and Winks (1.5).
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In terms of chances created, the stats seem to suggest that Souness could be wrong about Shelvey, with the Newcastle man completing only 0.5 key passes per 90 minutes in the Premier League this season. That ranks hims behind Winks (0.7), Henderson (1.3), Alli (2.2) and Livermore (0.7).
However, according to Squawka, Shelvey has a passing accuracy of 74% of which 98% were forward passes. Despite having the worst passing accuracy, Shelvey compares favourably to the current crop of England midfielders in terms of forward passing with only Henderson (91%) coming anywhere near his level.
Shelvey, who isn’t exactly renowned for his tackling, has won half of his tackles attempted this season with one attempted per 90 minutes. Alli plays further up the pitch than Shelvey but still has a better tackle success rate this season of 69.2%. In fact, Shelvey has a poorer success rate than every other England midfielder: Winks (100%), Dier (72%), Livermore (80%) and Henderson (70%).
The Newcastle star does not completely ignore his defensive duties, though, with only Winks (3.7) contributing more clearances per 90 minutes than Shelvey (2).