Jonjo Shelvey Performance for Swansea Shows Why He Had to Leave Liverpool

Karl Matchett@@karlmatchettFeatured ColumnistSeptember 16, 2013

SWANSEA, WALES - SEPTEMBER 16:  Swansea player Jonjo Selvey beats Daniel Sturridge to the ball during the Barclays Premier League match between Swansea City and Liverpool at Liberty Stadium on September 16, 2013 in Swansea, Wales.  (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
Stu Forster/Getty Images

Jonjo Shelvey took centre stage at the Liberty Stadium on Monday night in Swansea City's 2-2 draw with Liverpool, but neither "hero" nor "villain" even come close to covering his role in the match.

An inexplicable opening three minutes showcased, in a nutshell, exactly what was to come in the fixture.

The Swansea No. 8 opened the scoring just minutes into the game with his first league goal for his new club, scored against his former club.

A quick-fire show of repentance, though, saw him gift Daniel Sturridge an immediate equaliser.

And as Liverpool fans will tell you, that's Jonjo Shelvey.

Capable of the excellent, seen by many for a period of time as a potential eventual heir to Steven Gerrard's throne...but, ultimately, capable of bringing about his own downfall and that of the team with him.

More of the same was to come with Shelvey's second assist of the night for Liverpool, handing Victor Moses the chance to mark his debut with a goal, before his hat-trick assist finally came for his own teammates, heading down for Michu to equalise for 2-2.

It was a game that showed the best and worst of Shelvey, and it highlighted exactly why he needed to depart from Anfield this summer, take a step back and progress as a player for the betterment of his long-term career.

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During the first half of 2012-13, Shelvey was an important part of Brendan Rodgers' Liverpool side.

He featured regularly in both Premier League and Europa League fixtures, but his role differed greatly game to game. Acting as a central midfielder, Shelvey brought aggression, adventurous passing and movement, and no shortage of energy, but an unbalanced squad meant he was seen as something of a utility player.

Shelvey played from both flanks in attack, once at the tip of a diamond and even as a false nine centre-forward in European competition on one occasion.

It showed the faith in him as a player that the manager had, but it also highlighted that he had much to do to earn a regular place in the side. After a red card against Manchester United and a poor performance or two just before the turn of the year, that regular place moved further away than ever.

Over the second half of last term, Shelvey featured just four times in the Premier League, and it became apparent by the end of the season that Rodgers no longer regarded him as a good enough potential player to continue investing playing time in him.

Moving on became the only viable option, for both Shelvey and Liverpool.

But, even so, Shelvey was not, and is not, a bad player. At just 21 years of age, this is already an England international midfielder who has 50 Premier League games under his belt, another 50 at lower league and is even approaching 20 Continental matches to his name.

His experience outweighs many who play in his position of a similar age, and so do many of his technical abilities.

Shelvey is impetuous, a little too big for his boots, demanding of himself and capable of far more than he has managed to produce on a regular basis so far.

But all of those reasons are exactly why the move was needed; he needs to be able to play matches to show what he's good at and to learn where he can improve. A match against Liverpool shows him, in stark terms, the extremities of both.

Swansea City, as an attack-minded side who, though they enjoy large spells of possession, have become a quick and direct side when necessary, are a team that suits Shelvey down to the ground. They have expectations of winning games, not merely turning up and hoping to avoid defeat, and yet they will not attract too many headlines if he loses them a point or two here and there.

The mental strength Shelvey will have to show and also gain from being allowed to make such mistakes as those against Liverpool—and yet still be relied upon to make up for them afterward—will help to make him a better all-round player.

Swansea have paid a relatively low fee for a player who has a considerably higher talent ceiling than he has demonstrated to date. He might not ever reach the heights once hoped of him in replacing Gerrard for club and country, but he can certainly be a match-winner for both, given time, patience and belief.


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