Jonjo Shelvey has been one of Swansea’s key players this term, as the Welsh club sit in eighth place in the Premier League table.
Aided by the goals of Wilfried Bony and the creativity of Gylfi Sigurdsson, the Swans have massively over performed under the tutelage of club hero Garry Monk, who took charge of the club on an interim basis in February, before claiming full control prior to the start of this season.
At the centre of their team sits 22-year-old Shelvey, who has cemented himself as a vital part of the side since his transfer from Liverpool in the summer of 2013. Originally signed by the Reds from Charlton in 2010, many expected the once-capped England international to become a long-term replacement for club legend Steven Gerrard, although the youngster ended up making just 47 league appearances for the Merseyside club. He never truly impressed whilst turning out at Anfield, but he has come into his own since his arrival in Wales, and has already scored seven goals for his current side - including netting in both his appearances for the Swans against his former club.
He comes up against Gerrard on Monday evening, with Swansea facing Liverpool at Anfield looking to move in on the top four with a victory. A win could see the side move as high as sixth, and would leave them just two points off the Champions League places, whilst also moving the Reds into the bottom half of the table. With Liverpool looking to impose their possession-based style upon the game, the midfield battle will be key, and Shelvey has the chance to upstage Gerrard with a strong performance.
With this battle in mind, we take a look at who has had enjoyed the better season - Gerrard or Shelvey.
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Despite his increased age, Gerrard has played just under 400 more minutes of action that Shelvey, and - surprisingly, given the criticism surrounding him - has actually enjoyed a fairly strong season. He beats Shelvey in all the important areas for a creative midfielder, scoring three goals to the youngster’s one, although both men have only registered one assist.
However, the 34-year-old has not been aided by his misfiring teammates, having registering that one assist from an impressive 39 key passes. Were he playing behind a forward line adept at finishing, he would undoubtedly have more assists to his name, and his impressive creation rate makes Shelvey’s nine key passes seem incredibly low.
Gerrard also completes more passes per game than the young midfielder - 56 to 47 - and holds a stronger pass completion rate - 86.1% to 81.7% - despite being blamed for his wayward long passes regularly. Similarly, Gerrard completes more touches of the ball per game than Shelvey, proving that the ageing veteran is still performing at the level required of him.
With both midfield players expected to play vital roles in Monday evening’s game, it will be interesting to see whether Shelvey can finally live up to expectations and usurp Gerrard - as he was meant to do during his career. It shines brightly on the Liverpool captain that he is still performing well despite the Reds poor season, and the criticism of his play seems unwarranted - especially when compared with some of his teammates.
The Reds truly do need to clinch a result at Anfield, and Gerrard’s performance could prove to be vital to getting their season back on track.