Has Eddie Howe’s appointment signalled the start of Jonjo Shelvey’s reinvention at Newcastle United?
The midfielder impressed against Brentford - is it a sign of things to come for Newcastle’s playmaker?
Following Saturday’s hugely entertaining encounter with Brentford, many supporters revelled in the performance of Eddie Howe’s side and whilst three points still elude Newcastle, it was a huge step in the right direction.
One of the most impressive performances at St James’s Park came from Jonjo Shelvey in centre-midfield.
The 29-year-old commanded the game throughout, constantly getting himself on the ball and picking out the right pass at the right time.
Of course there were some ‘Hollywood balls’ in the mix also, but these were calculated and hit with intent, rather than hopeful lobs we have come accustomed to during his time in the black and white.
Shelvey has spent five seasons on Tyneside and save for the campaign spent in the Championship, where he was often afforded the time and space to dictate games, this was possibly his most influential performance for Newcastle.
Many will remember his stellar debut against West Ham in January 2016 - and Saturday was a return to this type of form.
Shelvey is at his best when he has the ball at his feet, has plenty of willing runners making options for him and is afforded just that split-second to be able to pick out the pass.
It wasn’t just his work on the ball that impressed on Saturday either, but his commitment to pressing the opposition and to track runners also made this a near-complete performance.
So will Shelvey be able to replicate this in the future? Well, he will certainly get the opportunity to do just that under Howe.
Speaking before the game with Brentford, his new Head Coach singled Shelvey out as having impressed in training:
“I knew how good Jonjo was on the ball technically, having played against him and seen him many times.
“When you actually work with him, you realise he’s an incredible technician, and he can play passes all over the pitch, long and short.”
Howe continued: “He’s someone that I’ve looked at, in terms of our philosophy and how we want to play, and he’ll be very important for us as the season develops.”
Much like the team as a whole, Shelvey’s performance against Brentford was a start, but only a start.
In order to back-up the praise he has rightly received from supporters, Shelvey needs to put in another good performance against Arsenal, however, this may prove to be difficult.
Against Liverpool, Arsenal started with the combative pair of Thomas Partey and Albert Sambi Lokonga - two players that will relentlessly press and ensure Shelvey is not afforded time and space on the ball.
How Shelvey is able to combat this added pressure on him, will not only determine how successful Newcastle will be against Arsenal, but how his side will fare for the rest of the season.
It seems like an age since he burst onto the scene with Liverpool, but Howe’s appointment could be the beginning of the reinvention of Jonjo Shelvey - and if it is, Newcastle United may just have enough to survive the drop this campaign.