Jonjo Shelvey is an upgrade on departing Cheick Tiote for Newcastle

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This time two years ago, January 2014, Newcastle United were sat in a very respectable eighth place in the Premier League.

It's not difficult to spot how vastly different that success is to the misery that Magpies fans are currently having to endure.

So much of that previous success can be accredited to having, without question, one of the strongest central midfield pairings in the league. Yohan Cabaye's deft elegance on the ball and delectable finishing, coupled with Cheick Tiote's ingenious ability to read a game and bully opponents was proving too much for even the finest of Premier League midfields.


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Shortly after, Cabaye departed, feeling that the Parisian grass was greener than that on Tyneside and thus began a handsome fall from grace for Tiote. Recurring hamstring and knee injuries have marred the Ivorian's time in Newcastle since and he has struggled greatly to recapture the inspirational form of his early days in the North East.

With Tiote on the verge of a rather uninspiring move to China with Shanghai Shenua, we look into what struggling Newcastle need to change their fortunes. There is an unquestionable lack of a real physical juggernaut in the centre of the Magpies' midfield. A character who can bully opponents, pick a pass and provide the required passion and inspiration when the chips are down.

Following an unquestionably successful debut we ask the question, is Jonjo Shelvey that man?

Statistically (according to WhoScored), Tiote's performances this season have been his poorest to date. He has only made seven appearances, four of which were as a substitute. In that time, he hasn't managed a single goal or assist and is averaging 0.4 'key passes' per game. His pass completion percentage remains in the 90s, but little to none of those are providing any positivity to the Newcastle engine.

Comparatively, Shelvey has not been having a much better time this season. This is despite coming into it off the back of his, and Swansea City's strongest ever campaign in 2014/2015.

Prior to Newcastle's weekend victory over West Ham United, Shelvey had managed one goal and two assists in 14 appearances. Despite his pass completion percentage (83.6%) being the lesser of the two players in question, he has been averaging a favourable 1.5 'key passes' per game.

This would suggest that he has certainly shown the greater attacking intent, a notion that has been largely lacking in Newcastle's play.

The England midfielder's bulleted cross-field pass to find Daryl Janmaat for the Tyneside club's second goal against the Hammers was a key example of this. The statistics are indicative of the distinct differences between the playing styles of the two central midfielders.

Tiote's strength is his physicality, understanding of the game, short passing and tackling. Whilst Shelvey may share in the ability to pick a pass as demonstrated in his first Magpies appearance, he lacks the positional discipline, concentration and hunger to win the ball.

With the discipline and solidarity of Jack Colback playing alongside Shelvey (fitness permitting), these factors shouldn't prove too much of an issue, though. One quality that is unquestionably a common theme at both player's disposal is the occasional ability to pull a 20-30 yard screamer out of a hat when nobody is expecting it.

However, there is still a lingering doubt concerning Shelvey's attitude. Is it just sheer coincidence that his variances in form always tend to directly correlate with that of the team he is playing in?

For example, last season Swansea enjoyed their most successful season ever in which Shelvey appeared 31 times in that campaign, scoring three times, providing five assists and was imperative to the success of their overall game.

This year, Swansea's fortunes have been on quite the contrary from that campaign. Incidentally, Shelvey became one of the heads targeted by Premier League form cynics and was subsequently dropped by then manager Garry Monk. This leads one to peruse whether this is just coincidental or can the England international only shine when complimented by an in form team?

Newcastle have been searching around for any sort of good form this season and sit miserably in a familiar relegation zone position, desperately in need of an injection of spirit and inspiration.

Can Jonjo Shelvey disprove the theory and provide the required passion? Or will he be another short-lived part-time hero who fades into obscurity after Newcastle scrape through another disillusioning relegation battle? Only time will tell...

Cheik Tiote
Premier League
Newcastle United
Jonjo Shelvey

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