Shelvey Or Winks? – Who Deserved A National Team Call-up More?
It was announced on Monday evening that Fabian Delph had pulled out of the England squad with injury, with manager Gareth Southgate promoting Harry Winks from the under-21 squad to replace him for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Slovenia and Lithuania. The move to promote Winks came as a big surprise to many, while some also echoed sentiments, including pundits Graeme Souness and Jamie Carragher, on why Newcastle United’s Jonjo Shelvey was overlooked.
England have been crying out for a box-to-box midfield player for some time. Arsenal’s Jack Wilshere perfectly fits the bill but injuries have tormented his career. Jordan Henderson and Eric Dier are the midfield pair Southgate prefers, while an injury or suspension to either of the two sees Jake Livermore occupy the central midfield spot.
With Southgate keen to add more dynamism to the midfield, he decided to call up Tottenham’s 21-year-old Winks. Initially called up to Aidy Boothroyd’s under-21s squad, Winks has recovered from ankle ligament damage this term and has made seven appearances for Spurs.
A product of the Tottenham youth academy, Winks made his Premier League debut last year. However, in April, he suffered a knee ligament injury and was ruled out for the rest of season.
Talking about his playing style, Winks is extremely accomplished with the ball at his feet and rarely misplaces a pass. He isn’t just a pass-master but possesses good dribbling skills too.
Meanwhile, Shelvey is not a new name for the England fans, as the midfielder has already represented the Three Lions six times. The Newcastle player has high-quality attributes to light up his case again for the national team, but it’s his exploding head that has let him down on a consistent basis.
At 25, Shelvey is an experienced midfielder not just capable of one-paced passes. He has technique, offers the extra-edge from the midfield and possesses the killer pass in his armoury, which his compatriots lack. On Sunday against Liverpool, the former Charlton player again demonstrated the qualities he offers to the Magpies, and can perform well for England if given a chance.
If both the players are compared and stats are considered, according to Squawka, Winks has played five games compared to Shelvey’s four. Winks boast an 87% pass completion rate, while Shelvey has 74%, interestingly of which 98% have been forward passes.
It’s typically from the midfield that an attack starts and midfielders have to be on their toes to shut it down. Hence, losing possession comes as a dangerous component of the game, as a player conceding possession from the middle of the park can trigger a counter attack from the opponent. In that case, Shelvey is guilty of giving the ball away once per 90 minutes, a relative improvement to Winks’ 1.5.
In terms of chances created, the stats may mislead Shelvey’s creative side of the player that he is, as the midfielder has completed only 0.5 key passes per 90 minutes in the PL, ranking him behind Winks’ 0.7.
Shelvey is not a clean tackler of the ball, with his recklessness often being culpable to his team’s downfall. He has a poor tackle success rate, with Winks’ at a staggering 100%.
Going by the facts and figures, it is easy to understand both the players, their qualities and their style of play. While Shelvey is a dynamic midfielder with an eye for goal, Winks offers elegance and the calming presence from the middle of pitch.
England’s shortage of central midfield options leaves Southgate to bank upon unheralded talents. Winks’ lack of experience might deem Southgate’s call as hasty, but the 21-year-old midfielder provides something different than other midfielders. However, going forward, Southgate must also not ignore Shelvey’s undeniable talent.
In fairness, it’s difficult to come to a conclusion as to who deserves to be there in the national team, although with Winks having been called up, he should grab the chance with both hands.