Liverpool midfielder Jonjo Shelvey has been in the headlines Tuesday for comments seemingly made with regards to his recent withdrawal from the club's first team lineup, but far too much is being made of it by the media.
Shelvey is currently preparing for an England Under-21 fixture against their counterparts from Sweden, and was asked about his Reds playing time, or lack of it, of late.
Ignoring the wider scope of his comments, papers such as the Independent tried to work the headlines to claim that Shelvey felt he was being victimised by his manager Brendan Rodgers, being made to pay for a below-par team-wide display all by himself.
Referring to Liverpool's 3-1 defeat at the Britannia Stadium just after Christmas, Shelvey stated that poor performance was the reason he was out of the team (as per Independent):
I played against Stoke and obviously I didn't have too great a game. I had a few personal issues that were going on in my life. I didn't think I was the only one that had a bad game that day but I was the one that suffered if you know what I mean. You just have to take it on the chin and work hard in training and try to get myself back in the team which I'm trying to do.
Are his comments really such a big deal?
A player played poorly, and has been left out of the team—an improved team which has gone on to lose just twice in eight games since that match. Is it really all that surprising that he has been left out since then? Not particularly.
Is it newsworthy that he says he has to work hard to get back in the team? Well, seemingly it is, but it shouldn't be.
The media have fixated on the "I was the one that suffered if you know what I mean" section without acknowledging that Shelvey did indeed play poorly, was suffering outside of the game and has admitted that he simply needs to work hard to regain his place.
He's not the first Liverpool player to have to battle hard to win a spot in the team this season.
Speaking to the LiverpoolFC official club website recently, Shelvey alluded to the fight that teammates Stewart Downing and Jordan Henderson have had to go through to earn their present places.
Stewart and Jordan were not playing at the start of the season and they have worked hard day-in, day-out since to force their way into the side. They've worked their socks off to get back into the team and it's paid off for them. They are enjoying a good spell in the side and Jordan has scored two goals in two games.
I'm happy for him to get his games but I want to be the one in his shoes and getting myself back into the team. It's down to us to roll our sleeves up and fight for our place in the team and show the manager and the coaching staff what we are about. It's just a case of working hard day-in, day-out and remaining professional.
What does the rest of the season hold for Shelvey?
The message is pretty clear: Shelvey knows full well that he has lost his place in the side because there is now increased competition in the squad.
Those who are performing well are in the side on merit; those on the fringes merely have to work hard to show they deserve another crack at it.
It's not about being a scapegoat, it's not about being made to pay for the mistakes and poor results of the past, but about putting a side together on a week-by-week basis which is capable of generating positive results for the football club.
Shelvey remains a part of Brendan Rodgers' squad and the manager will almost certainly not have any qualms about putting the No. 33 back into the team—when he has earned it.