What do Jonjo Shelvey's stats say about his performances for Newcastle this season?

Jonjo Shelvey’s impact off the bench against West Bromwich Albion has left Newcastle United fans clamouring for his permanent return to the starting XI.

But do the statistics ahead of Saturday's game against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge show that the midfielder should be an untouchable on Rafa Benitez’s teamsheet?

The short – and surprising – answer? No.

After his opening day dismissal against Tottenham Hotpsur, data suggests why Shelvey may still be seen as a selection gamble by manager Benitez.

Although known for his incisive passing, the 25-year-old has created less chances than any of Newcastle’s other regular starters, carving out only a third as many goalscoring opportunities as Matt Ritchie (24).

Another criticism which can be levelled at Shelvey based on statistics is his tendency to force play at times, with his 87 attempted long balls this season reaching their intended target 44 times – only a 51% success rate.

Jonjo Shelvey

Jonjo Shelvey

In addition, new signing Mikel Merino – despite missing almost a month of the season through injury – is the midfielder to have driven Newcastle forward most often this season (making 304 attacking contributions to Shelvey’s 284).

And while he has flattered to deceive offensively, Shelvey’s defensive stats are also no better than than those of fellow central midfielder Isaac Hayden, and worse than Merino’s.

He has a tackle success rate of 33% – identical to Hayden but well behind Merino on 44%.

In all, Shelvey has made 23 defensive contributions this season, behind Hayden’s 44 and Merino’s 35.

Mikel Merino

Mikel Merino

Away from the stats, and with Newcastle generally struggling for goals despite Tuesday night’s comeback at The Hawthorns, most fans would still argue that Shelvey and Merino are Newcastle’s best pair in centre midfield.

Yet they have started together only once – in September’s 1-1 draw with Liverpool.