As Jonjo Shelvey arrived at Swansea's new Landore training complex this week, he may well have passed Kyle Bartley coming the other way. A conversation about their careers would certainly have been worthwhile.
For until Shelvey's switch to the south Wales club, Bartley was the only other player with a British passport to have been brought in by Michael Laudrup since he took the reins at the Liberty Stadium. The Dane has been busy in the transfer market too - Shelvey was the 14th signing he has made in a little over 12 months.
Shelvey told the press that he had decided to leave Liverpool because of his desire for regular football (he only started nine Premier League games last season), adding: "I need to get myself to the status that I once had." Bartley had similar hopes when he left Arsenal last summer - but injuries and selection issues thwarted his ambitions and now he finds himself in the Championship on a season-long loan at Birmingham. Shelvey has greater pedigree and is unlikely to suffer a similar fate within 12 months, but Bartley's experience represents a trap-door threat that he would do well to heed.
What is the 'status' that Shelvey refers to, and does it amount to much? It's unclear whether the 21-year-old was referring to the senior England call-ups and cap against San Marino he received last autumn, or the clamour over his signature three years ago when he joined the Reds from Charlton, snubbing Chelsea in the process. Either way, Shelvey acknowledges his upward trajectory has levelled off in the last six months. With a distinguished coach like Laudrup making eyes at him, and with the advice of Brendan Rodgers holding sway too, it's no surprise he has taken the chance to give his career a shot in the arm by taking a transfer.
However, as Swans chairman Huw Jenkins admitted, the signing of Shelvey is as much a case of his nationality as his natural ability and potential. Due to Laudrup's foreign recruitment drive, the club's 25-man squad was top-heavy with non-homegrown players in the second half of last season. Forward-thinking Jenkins can already envisage a situation in the future whereby Swansea struggle to hit the Premier League quota - Luke Moore, Alan Tate and Curtis Obeng are all set to follow Mark Gower out of the club, while Jose Canas and Alejandro Pozuelo have come on board. At least Jordi Amat will count as an Under-21 player for 2013/14, but the overseas influence is close to overload - a tempting big-money bid for Ashley Williams would certainly cause a dilemma, for example.
Shelvey won't want to just make up the numbers, therefore, and having splashed out a sizeable outlay to recruit him, that can't be Swansea's intention. However, he does run the risk of being an also-ran like Bartley unless he can demonstrate his best position. When Rafa Benitez brought the then-teenager to Anfield for £1.7million in 2010, the quality he prized most of all was Shelvey's "passion". More recently, that appears to have developed into hot-headedness (the red card in September's home defeat by Manchester United being the prime example) and his attitude was again called into question after the miserable 2-0 reverse to West Brom at Anfield in February, after which he told fans criticising him on Twitter that they did not know what they were talking about.
In that defeat to the Baggies, Shelvey was the central midfielder of the attacking three in a 4-2-3-1 formation, a position he was also deployed in most recently on both of his England Under-21 starts at the European U21 Championship in Israel. At Swansea, his main rival for that role would be Wayne Routledge, but Michu and Jonathan de Guzman are also serious contenders (depending on personnel). However, in March, he was asking Rodgers to play him in a holding midfield role in reserve games in order to learn that particular craft. Trying to lever yourself into that department at the Liberty is even tougher under Laudrup - the pass completion rates of Ki Sung-yeung (93%), Leon Britton (91%) and De Guzman (89%) are all markedly better than Shelvey's Premier League average, while new-boy Jose Canas and also Britton would surely be the men to turn to if tough tackling was needed.
Get him within sight of goal, and Shelvey seems much more useful - something he demonstrated in the Europa League. After his two-goal salvo as a sub in Switzerland, he played up front in the home game against Young Boys and notched again. In between, he scored against Udinese in an Anfield defeat where he looked hard to contain. Equally he was effective in advanced roles for Liverpool in their fine form in late November and early December, impressing in the narrow success over Southampton and bagging the winner in the 3-2 victory at West Ham. Shelvey can make a difference when he's given licence to threaten the opposition, but when he's asked to be more disciplined, he struggles to focus on the task in hand. It's hard to imagine Laudrup giving him the game-time to address that as a defensive midfielder, while the abundance of talent at Swansea in attacking positions - such as Pablo Hernandez, Nathan Dyer, and those mentioned previously - presents a definite pecking order.
At 21, time is still firmly on Shelvey's side and as a British trade-up on Kemy Agustien, his signing makes a lot of sense for Swansea. There were flashes of his quality in the otherwise abject England Under-21s campaign last month, but he was largely ineffective against Italy - the highest calibre opposition - and couldn't inspire his team-mates despite improving against Norway (when he came off the bench) and Israel. For a player who was understood to be modelling himself on Steven Gerrard, that was somewhat alarming. The passion that Benitez noted is still an important part of his game, but attitude and focus will have to be worked upon if Shelvey is to update his "status" to what went before.
|Premier League 2012/13||Jonjo Shelvey|
|Minutes on Pitch||917|
|Pass Completion %||82%|
|Cross Completion %||17%|
|Dribbles & Runs||12|
|Dribble Completion %||33%|
|Tackles won %||86%|