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Opinion: Splitting opinion and defences, playmaker should win Newcastle player of the season

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2019/20 has been a season for Newcastle United which could be interpreted in several different ways. On the face of things, it appears to have been a relative success with Steve Bruce guiding the Magpies to Premier League safety, along with a first FA Cup quarter-final since 2006.

But the method of achieving survival and the cup run have been painful to watch at times, with Newcastle retaining the lowest average possession in the Premier League, 42.1 per cent. Likewise, based on expected points, the Magpies are bottom of the division, suggesting they have overperformed just to retain their top-flight status.

Much like the multiple ways of interpreting this campaign, one Magpies player who is notorious for splitting opinion amongst the Toon army is Jonjo Shelvey. Regardless, the 28-year-old midfielder has experienced one of his most consistent terms in the northeast and should be within a shot of winning Newcastle’s player of the season.

While Allan Saint-Maximin may appear to be the obvious choice, and he is the only player with a higher average match rating than the playmaker’s 6.98, the flying Frenchman has made two fewer starts than Shelvey, scoring half the number of Premier League goals, three. Newcastle’s top scorer’s six goals have helped Bruce’s side accumulate 11 valuable points this term, and without his goalscoring influence from the engine room, the Toon could be in the thick of a relegation scrap.

Despite only recording a single assist throughout his 25 top-flight appearances, Shelvey has played an average of 1.7 key passes per match, which suggests the service has been there, but his teammates have been unable to convert the chances he creates.

Additionally, the hub of the Newcastle midfield plays an average of 5.2 more passes per match than closest rivals Jamaal Lascelles and Nabil Bentaleb’s 35.3 average passes. No other Magpies player comes close to exerting the same influence as the England international when he is in possession, as time and again this term he has dictated the Toon’s play.

Although not renowned for being a prolific goalscorer, Shelvey has averaged 1.8 shots per match, the joint-most of any Newcastle player and equalled his best haul of six Premier League goals in a season. While the 28-year-old may not be as enthralling to watch as Saint-Maximin’s dazzling dribbles, his influence at St James’ Park this season has been irrefutable, and he would be a worthy winner of Newcastle’s player of the season.

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