Goals from debutant Andre Ayew and Bafetimbi Gomis cancelled out Oscar’s free-kick and a Federico Fernandez own-goal to earn a point at Stamford Bridge, but it was the performance of 23-year-old Jonjo Shelvey that really impressed.
He was selected as Swansea’s key player this season in The Blog FC’s EPL Season Previews, and he delivered on the opening weekend of the season. Jonjo Shelvey has come of age under Garry Monk, and following an impressive display against the defending champions Chelsea, it looks like he’s ready to take another step forward.
The enigmatic former Liverpool midfielder has long been recognised as one of England’s brightest young talents, but questions over his temperament and ability to put in consistent performances have meant he is still very much viewed as a rough diamond rather than a polished jewel. On Saturday at Stamford Bridge, the toughest away trip in the league, Shelvey put in arguably the most polished performance of his career.
Shelvey was the top passer in the match, completing 52 of his 58 attempts and creating six chances including a golden opportunity for Bafetimbi Gomis in the opening 15 minutes when he split centre-backs John Terry and Gary Cahill with a superb 40-yard pass. He also played the lofted through-ball in the second half which set Gomis free and led to the foul by Thibaut Courtois, which saw the Belgian sent off and Gomis convert the penalty to bring Swansea back level.
Monk singled Shelvey out on Boxing Day last season following a poor performance and an unnecessary yellow card, and the Swansea gaffer is impressed with how Shelvey has responded.
“I said a few things last season to see what reaction I might get and I’m glad to say I got the right reaction,” Monk is quoted as saying in the Mirror. “He did it last season and has done it again.”
“He went away for the summer and has come back with a good attitude and hopefully we will see an even better Jonjo.”
That good attitude extends beyond the pitch, and has seen Shelvey advertise for a live-in chef who would prepare meals for himself, his wife and young child, carefully planned to ensure the midfielder stays in perfect shape throughout the season.
Back on the pitch it’s seen improvement in all facets of his game. In addition to dictating the tempo and direction of the Swansea attack against the best midfielders in the league, Shelvey was second overall and the Swansea leader in ball recoveries, while also winning his only tackle in an all-round display. He also only took one shot for the match, and from a player who used to waste attacking opportunities by firing on sight regardless of better-placed teammates, this, and his more reserved approach to tackling, highlight the maturation in Shelvey.
Monk has even tipped him for an England recall, and with injuries to Fabian Delph and Jack Wilshere, the international break in a few weeks time could be the perfect opportunity for Roy Hodgson to hand Shelvey his second England cap – and his first in three years.
“I spoke to him about this seriously,” the Swansea manager said. “He’s still a young player, which you forget about because he looks older. But he has talent, they all have.
“His vision, his technical ability is excellent and it’s just trying to get him to a level where he can perform to that for every single minute, week in and week out and I think we can get there.”
If he can get there, he may finally fulfill that potential and become a mainstay for the Three Lions for years to come.