Monday, 9 February 2015

Jonjo Shelvey: Brain Power & Consistency

Why Jonjo Shelvey needs to think more. And less. 

With Shelvey having enjoyed a couple of games at what I feel is his most effective position - at the head of a midfield three - Garry Monk has spoken about how there is still more to come from the ex-Charlton & Liverpool man in that particular role:

"I think he enjoys his role with licence to join attacks. There are still certain aspects he can work on. The freedom he enjoys but he can be a bit more elusive. 
"[He] has shown that in the last two games. I speak a lot to him, he understands the mistakes he has made. People forget how young he is, it feels like he is a seasoned pro. 
"We're trying to bring consistency to his game, you can all see the quality."

Ironically, I think the key to Jonjo kicking on again is if he tones things down a notch. We've all seen his quality - the match-winning strike against Southampton just the latest example - and as Jonathan Weaver pointed out the statistics indicate we're very much better off with him in the team than without.

Since Jonathan sent that tweet we've been in action. We're now at a point where with Jonjo starting in the league we average 1.73 points per game, and without him in the starting lineup we've picked up five points in five games. He has a habit of doing something brilliant to win a match - a brilliant habit to have, but if he's to push on and demand England attention his all-round game still needs work.

I've said before and I think it's still the case that when he loses the ball or plays a bad pass his first reaction is a self-chastisement, looking down and obviously bemoaning whatever it was that just went wrong. This needs to change - football is decided in milliseconds and if he can get out of that habit it'll help massively. He has the ability to change a game at will; if he can gain more composure and improve his decision making he really could explode onto the scene.

Necessity seemed to dictate Shelvey being moved into the number ten position, and I genuinely think he has the ability to challenge Sigurdsson for that spot at the head of the midfield. If he is to play in a deeper role, then he quickly needs to realise that ninety-nine percent of the time he shouldn't be looking to play hollywood passes. If he's not particularly thinking about anything, the chances are he'll be doing the right thing.

Less is more. When things are forced they rarely go right. Shelvey's shot at Southampton was, while epic, the right option to take at that moment in time. The execution was excellent, and it's not the first time we've seen him pull something out of the bag when he didn't have time to think. Liverpool away - a first time wonder-goal. Fulham away - nifty feet followed by a stunning winner. When he doesn't think, he generally produces something magic. When he's got time to dwell on the ball... well, that's just it - he shouldn't be dwelling on the ball. 

This is all in possession of the ball though. In defence Shelvey could definitely learn from Sigurdsson, who uses his body excellently, constantly twisting and turning so as to always be face on to danger. This is something that Jonjo doesn't do as much, and it could explain why he's caught out more defensively - and perhaps also why he keeps picking up yellow cards.

With Gylfi having already displayed an epic ability to press for ninety minutes perhaps it's harsh to judge Jonjo by those standards, but it's an area he can improve in and one which would make him a better player. 

It might seem strange, but the more I think about it the conclusion is a clear - but perhaps peculiar one. Jonjo needs to think less when he's got the ball, and think more when he hasn't.